Entertainment

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Penn misses 'Taken' target, Gyllenhaal packs a punch

“The Gunman” (Oct. 28, Netflix) — Looks like Sean Penn won’t be joining Liam Neeson in the aging action heroes club. It’s not that “The Gunman” isn’t a serviceable thriller, or that Penn doesn’t look fit enough to serve as a one-man army. The film simply tanked at the box office. Have Penn’s hard-left politics and aggressive approach to those who don’t agree with him hurt his commercial clout?

The 2015 thriller finds Penn as a shady special forces op who lives to regret an assassination gig in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Flash forward a few years, and all the good work he’s done since then is about to unravel, big time.

Neeson’s “Taken” series delivers raw thrills and action, with few questions asked. “The Gunman” heaps on Western guilt atop some pretty silly subplots. Penn is never less than solid, though, and when the film decides to focus on the action sequences, the “Gunman” hits its targets.

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“Southpaw” (Blu-ray/VOD) — Kurt Sutter knows a thing or two about throwing punches. The creator of “Sons of Anarchy” orchestrated plenty of fisticuffs during that show’s seven-year run. Now, he’s the co-screenwriter behind “Southpaw,” the tale of a troubled fighter looking for one last shot at redemption. The cliché meter hits red early and often during the film, which casts Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxing champ whose life is reduced to rubble following a series of personal disasters.

Critics heaped praise on Gyllenhaal’s performance and training regimen alike. The star looks like he could survive a few rounds with real fighters.

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The film earned a respectable $52 million, not bad for a boxing film without the words “Rocky” or “Balboa” in the title.

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“Max” (Blu-ray/VOD) — This PG-rated, patriotic film has its heart in the right place. Just be warned. This family friendly story isn’t for the young-young ones. The film’s title character is the loyal dog of a Marine killed in Afghanistan. A grieving Max won’t listen to orders from anyone else, so he may need to be euthanized. Enter Justin (Josh Wiggins), the Marine’s younger brother who forges an integral bond with the German shepherd.

Director Boaz Yakin co-wrote the film with Sheldon Lettich, a Marine and Vietnam War veteran. They wanted to make a movie that captured not only the bond between man and dog, but focus on the canines that risk their lives in combat. MWDs, or military working dogs, get their due in this heart-tugging drama.

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