Co-Written and Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Co-Written by: Mel Gibson and Stacey Perksie
Starring: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Kevin Hernandez and Dean Norris
A career criminal and veritable ‘man with no name’ [Gringo] (Mel Gibson) participates in a high speed chase along the US border after a multimillion dollar robbery. He crashes his car over the Mexican border, is nabbed by corrupt Mexican border cops who decide that it’s better that they take the stolen cash for themselves and throw ‘the driver’ into prison. Gringo must learn to navigate this crazy prison, run by a Crime Kingpin that serves as a walled community for criminals and their families and look out for the people he’s stolen from breaking in to exact retribution.
Get the Gringo is director Adrian Grunberg’s love letter to Fistful of Dollars, Sam Peckinpah, Payback and Lethal Weapon‘s Martin Riggs. Grunberg’s previous films as an assistant director (Traffic, Amores Perros) have clearly influenced his aesthetic choices. He uses the saturated yellows and faded bright earthy colour palettes and gritty unflattering lighting and filth to turns the prison into a forted shanty town where the criminal Kingpin Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho) is in charge. Grunberg does a good job in his directorial debut getting you inside the head of Gringo. The dulcet, cigar and whiskey tainted tones of Gibson provide the voice over narration for the film. The opening act involves about 3 lines of dialogue from the protagonist, and Grunberg uses Gringos internal monologue to get us inside his head. Grunberg (and co-writers Perksie and Gibson) compiles a dangerous hostile environment in the prison and interested parties from all sides looking to get this Gringo that uses a similar structure to that of Snatch, or Lock Stock. The kid (Kevin Hernandez) who helps Gringo navigate though the prison had a well crafted and intense performance for a young actor; but ultimately none of the supporting characters matter here, Gringo is the focus. The other actors retreat into the background and become like ‘supervillain’ henchman, there to be canon fodder for the hero.
Gibson’s an actor that effortlessly pays an almost wordless character. Despite an older grizzled face, he’s still got those volatile, piercing eyes that keep him unpredictable and calculating in the midst of the chaos. Gringo’s Gibson in his natural mode, it’s clearly a passion project. And his writing input is evident in him bringing in character elements from the roles that define him (Gringo is also Sniper…like Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon and career criminal Fletcher in Payback). He provides a solid but distant performance as the lead. This is Gibson trying to get back to his ‘kick ass’ best but unfortunately you can feel the film trying. Gringo’s first moments in the prison see him railing against the natural order and take a beating, but he’s barely marked. He goes out into the prison population and swiftly (and easily) finds funds to get him out of the daily grind. There’s just something all too easy about how the Gringo navigates through his seemingly impregnable predicament that is antithetical to him being captured in the first place. I don’t want the effortless, too cool character that gets through every situation unscathed. The iconic Gibson performances focus on flawed and imperfect humanity. They feature formidable foes that often gain the upper hand. I want to see his toes getting smashed with a hammer, I want to see that Asian guy with the ‘fumanchu’ moustache and long hair that was in every movie electrocuting Mel, I want to hear “I’m gonna fucking kill the both of you”.
Get the Gringo is a superficial attempt to get Gibson back to his badass best. It is crime pulp, sadistic comedic fare but unlike the film that influenced it most - Payback - the antics of Gibson’s private life inhibit your ability to really love this character.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Get The Gringo is released in Australia on the 31st of May 2012, in the U.S.A on Video on Demand on the 1st of May 2012.