Technology with attitude

Movie Review: GET THE GRINGO Is a Boon for Its Troubled Star

1

Damn you, Mel Gibson.  You did it again.  For the third time, you let fly a rambling, profane tirade against the evils of the world as you view them (Round 1: Drunken anti-Semitic slurs.  Round 2: Physical threats against your ex-girlfriend that somehow prove shockingly derogatory to the African-American community.  Round 3: Physical/verbal threats against a screenwriting partner that somehow include slurs against the aforementioned parties, and homosexuals, to boot), that logorrhea goes viral, and so the world should loathe the very air that you breathe, but it never quite works out that way, does it?

Because you’re a Movie Star, and you always end up releasing something that completely redeems your public image in the eyes of God, the Devil, and this humble critic.

First, it was Edge of Darkness, that underrated 2010 thriller where you played a tough cop driven to emotional and physical destruction in order to avenge your daughter’s murder, and you were electric: funny, sad, chilling.  Now, we get Get the Gringo, a nasty little noir-comedy that’s even better.  Get the Gringo didn’t receive the commercial push that Edge of Darkness had – it topped out with a tiny theatrical release window and a low-key video-on-demand roll-out (maybe Fox was feeling the pressure from your aggregated tantrums) – so it pretty much disappeared from the public consciousness.  Again, that cognitive dissonance: do I cheer because you suffer the financial results of your appalling actions, or do I lament that most audiences missed what might be the most entertaining thing you’ve made since the first Lethal Weapon?

Like the abused spouse, I lament.  God help me, but I do.

Get the Gringo (changed from its original – and more amusing – title of How I Spent My Summer Vacation) wastes no time establishing its dry, diseased tone; we see Gibson’s unnamed crook – dressed as a clown, natch (any movie that starts by referencing Bill Murray’s Quick Change automatically wins points from me) – barreling towards the border with the cops on his tail, his gut-shot partner in the back seat, and $4 million of stolen cash flapping around the interior of the getaway car.

The only thing that seems to bother Gibson’s character?  His partner spitting up blood all over the money.

Like Gibson’s Payback protagonist, this guy is a sociopath of the highest order, and as in that earlier film, we like him because everyone else is so much more corrupt.  The Mexican border patrol apprehend him simply to pocket the stolen loot, and they shuttle him off to “El Pueblito,” a multi-level, multi-block prison compound where the inmates shoot up, and screw, and kill each other in broad daylight, and the guards don’t intervene because they’re all in the pocket of the venal cartel boss (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who runs the place.  It is in this hellhole that Gibson’s character befriends a ten-year-old kid (Kevin Hernandez, much better here than he was in Fox’s The Sitter), and the two begin an increasingly bloody revenge mission together.

Admittedly, Get the Gringo gets a little implausible, yet I never minded since it’s such high-energy nonsense.  Screenwriters Stacy Perskie, Adrian Grunberg (who also directed), and Gibson himself keep this tangled web (it involves stolen livers, cross-country police corruption, as well as the San Diego crime syndicate from which Gibson filched the $4 million) moving at peak velocity, with a big assist from the prison itself, which looks like a Mad Magazine parody of Dickensian squalor.

Best of all is the relationship between Gibson and Hernandez.  In a normal movie, their interactions would grind the proceedings to a halt just so the hero could present himself in a cute, positive light (being nice to kids=everybody loves you).  Get the Gringo isn’t normal, however, and Hernandez isn’t cute; he’s a foul-mouthed, chain smoking hoodlum looking for his opportunity to shank Cacho’s Big Bad, and we know Gibson likes him because he gives the kid nicotine gum (to curb his cravings, of course) and christens him his spotter (as in, the person who tells snipers when to kill people) on their Roaring Rampage of Revenge.  Their interplay is loose and depraved, and it brings out Mel Gibson the Movie Star, the wry, charming bastard who can crash a car through the Mexican border in the pursuit of freedom or set a building on fire for some extra cash, and he does it with a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye.

The whole thing ends in a bloodbath and some scenery chewing from the great Peter Stormare, and all feels right in the world.  This is Mel Gibson in his element, and years of Mad Max and Lethal Weapon have distracted us from the obvious: the man excels at being naughty.  Does he ever.

Twentieth Century Fox’s Blu-ray offers erratic picture quality, though I’d chalk that up to imperfect source materials; Grunberg shot the film on smeary DV, and it shows.  The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track has fewer issues – it’s sharp and immersive and roaring when it needs to be.

Features are scant: a decent BTS featurette (“Get the Gringo: A Look Inside”) and three quick “On Set” clips (“The Car Chase,” “The Shootout,” and “The Raid”).  It isn’t much, but I’m surprised a flick with such a low profile got anything.

The set also includes DVD and Digital copies.

It’s the great conundrum: how to reconcile a horrid fellow like Mel Gibson with his wonderful screen presence and talent.  Get the Gringo doesn’t make the issue any easier to parse – it’s a violent delight, and the perfect showcase for its raging bull of a leading man.

Get the Gringo is now available on Blu-ray.  Click HERE for Amazon’s listing.