"Brainless" is the word that comes up most often in reviews of "The Gray Man," as if an intellectual workout is what we're all looking for in summer action escapism. Huh?

For what it is -- a high-octane, pow-pow-pow fronted by A-listers Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans -- this baby delivers.

But is pow enough? For Netflix, currently experiencing a subscriber downturn, "The Gray Man" is an expensive gamble with the suits spending -- gulp! -- $200 million (a record for them) to win back audiences like it did with the two-series punch of "Squid Game" and "Stranger Things."

Can a single movie do the same? It's doubtful. But "The Gray Man," based on 12 bestselling page-turners by Mark Greaney, wants to build a franchise starring Gosling as CIA assassin Sierra Six. "007 was taken," teases Six -- real name Court Gentry (I'm not kidding) -- just to show what kind of franchise Netflix has in mind.

Good luck with that. Joe and Anthony Russo, the directors, give equal banter time to Evans, the do-gooder Captain America in four of their marvelous Marvel "Avengers" epics. And Evans lets it rip playing against type as boo-hiss sadist Lloyd Hansen, a sociopath who prides himself on torturing anyone, including kids, to get what he wants.

PHOTO: Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda and Ryan Gosling as Six appear in a scene from "The Gray Man."
Paul Abell/Netflix
Ana de Armas as Dani Miranda and Ryan Gosling as Six appear in a scene from "The Gray Man."

How disappointing that all he wants is one of those thumb drives wrapped in a gold amulet that would implicate higher-ups in lowdown dirty business. I know, the plot's old enough to qualify for AARP membership. But it's a kick to watch Gosling play it cool while Evans, in full psycho mode, insults him as "a Ken doll," the very role Gosling will play in the film version of "Barbie."

You won't find a better cast of overqualified actors anywhere. There's Billy Bob Thornton as Donald Fitzroy, the idea man behind the Sierra program in which convicted felons are turned into undercover CIA killers (gray men) in exchange for their freedom. And watch out for "Bridgerton" heartthrob Regé-Jean Page as shady CIA group chief Denny Carmichael.

Special praise is also due to Ana de Armas -- so good as the uber-Bond girl for Daniel Craig in "No Time to Die" -- as fellow agent Dani Miranda. She and Gosling provide much-needed sexy time in a movie that's all too eager to play it safe instead of fast and loose.

But, boy, can "The Gray Man" globe trot. You can see every penny of that mega-budget as the movie races through Thailand, Berlin, Croatia, Vienna and Azerbaijan, including a massive fist fight on a plane in freefall and a stopover in Prague where Six manages to wipe out an army of assassins while handcuffed to a park bench. Sweet.

PHOTO: Ryan Gosling is shown as Six in "The Gray Man."
Stanislav Honzik/Netflix
Ryan Gosling is shown as Six in "The Gray Man."

And just in case you're worrying that "The Gray Man" doesn't have a heart, the Russo brothers sneak in a subplot involving the kidnapping by Lloyd of Fitzroy's 12-year-old niece, played by "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" scene-stealer Julia Butters.

Let's face it, "The Gray Man" doesn't add up to much more than a pair of up-for-anything superstars trying to breathe life into an uninspired collection of combat cliches. That Gosling and Evans sometimes succeed makes "The Gray Man" good enough to rank as watchable.

But even in these inflationary times, shouldn't 200 million bucks buy us more than "good enough"?