Thoughts: Go for the Gringo

It’s been a while since any of us have seen Mel Gibson do anything that would classify him as a decent human being, leave alone a good actor. With his incessant rants and his scandalous headlines which kept him in the news, Get the Gringo is something that would probably remind you what was his selling proposition; his charm, his wit, his sense of humor and the cynical edge he bought to his roles.

Now although this is no Braveheart, but Gibson I believe is one of the few who is a better director than an actor. With movies like Apocalypto, the very savage Passion of the Christ to the wonderful Braveheart (Double Oscar winner!!) Gibson has a sort of magic in telling stories.

The movie starts with “Driver” (Gibson, who never reveals his name in the course of the film as part of the mystery on who he is I guess) running away from the US Law enforcement authorities and ends up plowing his car through the border fence. The Texas police try to persuade the Mexicans to hand him back but one glance at two duffel bags oozing millions in cash prompts the Mexicans to keep Driver on their side of the line. They then toss him in a putrid, slick prison, corrupt and ramshackle and to top it off its being run by thugs and goons themselves with the law enforcers just sitting on a back seat (they actually stand atop with sniper aimed at the general public). Here is when the rest of the cast gets introduced, Gibson’s “best –friend”, a 10-year-old cigarette smoking child ironically named ‘Kid’ (Kevin Hernandez who does a decent job in the movie) who is plotting to exact revenge on another criminal, Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) who is the real head of the prison and who killed Kid’s father.

Driver is a career criminal and gets into his groove quickly settling down into the prison and gets money, a gun and the usually riff-raff needed to survive in prison while simultaneously making friends with Kid. Initially he bribes the Kid into listening to him, but as the movie progresses we see a sort of father – son – buddy bond developing between the two. (Sort of touching, but doesn’t really distract you much from the movie)

The movie kicks up dust once Frank (Peter Stormare who’s been in cults like Fargo and the Big Lebowski), dispatches professional killers to retrieve the money that Driver stole. They track down the crooked cops who arrested Driver and then its gets graphic for those poor saps. Of course the usual issues ponder Driver of how to get out and how to keep him and the Kid safe. He manages to gain Javi’s confidence and snag a deal so he can get out, return to America, and pump Frank with a bucket load of bullets. The Kid’s mother, her back-story, the smaller criminals under Javi’s reign, the police chief, and why the Kid’s father was killed are all smaller intricate stories running together which keeps the story moving forward.

The script is very well written by Gibson and it’s been directed by Adrian Grunberg (who is making his directorial debut here after deputizing for numerous films such as Traffic, Man on Fire and Apocalypto). The movie runs a tight line of humor, edge, and danger that can very easily be considered an unofficial sequel to Gibson’s cult favorite, Payback. The acting is decent to say the least. The Kid is good, he doesn’t try to overdo his bit, and the villains are all relegated to a miniscule piece thereby ensuring the Gibson remains at the forefront of it all.

The brilliance I personally saw in the movie is the cinematography and the overall environment that was created. It makes a seamy place out to be seamy, and doesn’t take the route of showcasing something less so that the focus remains on the lead actors only. Get the Gringo exists in the world it’s built, “El Pueblito,” based on the actual prison in Tijuana, is real and startling. It’s based a dirty, gritty world, and the movie wants to show it all.

This movie has all the ingredients necessary to be a decent hit, with a mysterious lead actor who has a history and motivation; a friendship blossoming in the notorious place and un-friendliest place on Earth, secret past life stories where staying alive depends upon it and main lure of life is to be free. (‘You can buy anything here, but you can’t buy freedom”)

Yes, there are traces of Prison Break here (especially from season 3) but Driver, unlike Scofield doesn’t take crap from anyone and has a sense of humor.

The scope is exactly what you would expect from a $20 million movie. It’s also not very long (about 90 minutes), so it goes by rather quick, but it’s really fun.

If only it had been marketed well and had a wide release this movie would have been a decent (in terms of dollars generated) hit

For those of us who endured so many years of understandable negativity towards Gibson for his personal troubles, Get the Gringo is the film you’ve long awaited. Catch if you can.

 

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