Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo is surprisingly entertaining, and one wonders why it didn’t get more press. Mel Gibson, despite his turmoils, is still engaging and adept as an actor, making this rather random movie pretty watchable.

Here’s a trailer:

The trailer gives the film a more lighthearted feel than the flick actually has, although there is some surprising and quirky humor to it.

The deets:

Released March 15, 2012

Written by Mel Gibson, Stacy Perskie, and Adrian Grunberg

Directed by Adrian Grunberg

Starring Dolores Heredia, Mel Gibson, Dean Norris, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Peter Stormare, and Peter Gerety

Rated: R

*     *     *     *      *

Story

Get the Gringo starts with a driver (Gibson) who is unnamed throughout the film (except for aliases) careening in a car away from what we assume are authorities. He is wearing clown makeup and his accomplice is wearing the same. They have just robbed a mobster (Stormare) and money is flying everywhere. When his partner is shot and there is no more option for the driver, he crashes through the border fence (a perfectly good use for said fence) and is picked up by the Mexican authorities. These corrupt individuals proceed to keep all the money that they can find and lock the driver in a prison, where they likely hope he will die before long, given the anarchy that reigns therein.

Meanwhile, a local embassy guy (Gerety) shows up to take up the driver’s case. When he can’t find anything on the fellow, the embassy guy starts to realize he can make some money by tracking down the corrupt cops and screwing the driver.

The driver has a rough first day in the prison, but he’s a lifelong criminal, albeit with a heart of gold and he gets his feet under himself quickly. We like him for two reasons: he recognizes and disdains corruption and his narration gives him a sense of humor we enjoy. Yes, there is voice-over narration throughout.

He reluctantly befriends a kid (Hernandez) who lives with his mom (Heredia) in the prison complex and learns that the prison and a huge criminal enterprise are run by a guy named Javi (Cacho), who has kidney disease.

So this isn’t an American prison. People wander the complex freely and even some families live there together. Thus, the driver is able to pull off a few capers that get him some cash and a weapon. Which is lucky, since the mobster he robbed wants his money back and is willing to do all kinds of nasty things to get it back.

Conflicts arise as we learn more about the kid and why the leader of the prison wants him around and as the mobster and the embassy guy set in motion deadly events aimed at the driver. Thus, the driver needs to come up with a slick plan to stick it to all the baddies and save the kid, and the mother whom he might be getting sweet on.

We end up with all kinds of gunfights and a few explosions, but mostly a pretty smart denouement that gets people what they deserve.

Critique

Get the Gringo has multiple flavors to it. You’ve got some irreverent charm, ala Lethal Weapon. You’ve got some slick, well timed capers, ala Ocean’s Eleven and other smart heist films. You’ve even got some brutal action, in the style of Tarantino.

All in all, for a flick that didn’t spend any time at all in wide theatrical release, Get the Gringo is a pretty good movie. The writing is a bit precious, in that the narration is a bit Pulp Fiction, but Gibson’s got the chops to deliver the narration and quirky, at times brutal, humor well.

The performances are, as you might expect from non-A-list talent, darn good and nicely straightforward. Heredia does a particularly great job as a tough bear-mom who has a vulnerable side she absolutely refuses to show if there’s any chance of betrayal. Hernandez is a spunky kid who doesn’t seem at all intimidated by Gibson. Stormare is typically bombastic as the mobster. And Gibson is just, all of his baggage aside, a very good actor. His performance is deft and well-tuned to the material.

Get the Gringo deserved more love. It’s one of those scuffed gems that gleams in spots and maybe needed a little more polish. It’s certainly better than most of the formula-following, derivative stuff that pours in and out of theaters these days. For a film that isn’t formulaic, is pretty smart, has plenty of action, and offers a look at a prison culture that the movie audience should love, it’s sad it didn’t get more press and exposure in wide theatrical release.

Content warnings: Plenty of bloody violence and harsh language, some sexual material and drug use.

Writing: 4           Acting: 4.5            Overall: 4

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