Sunday, July 6, 2014

Get the Gringo (2012)

Get the GringoWith Mel Gibson doing himself no favors in the public media over the last six years, GET THE GRINGO is a much-needed reminder of why we loved him so much. While it was greatly refreshing to see Gibson on screen again in EDGE OF DARKNESS and THE BEAVER after an overbearing eight-year absence, GET THE GRINGO does the best of capturing everything we truly loved about Gibson's performances: charm, wit, humor, edge. The script by Gibson, director Adrian Grunberg and producer Stacey Persky is an original and tight balance of humor, edge, and danger that can very easily be considered an unofficial sequel to the theatrical cut of Gibson's cult favorite, PAYBACK. While the character of GRINGO's Driver never reveals his actual name, he possesses a lot of the same qualities as PAYBACK's Porter, including a U.S. military tattoo, a chain-smoking habit, sticky fingers, an iron jaw, and a penchant for bloodshed. Grunberg's direction is also solid with an obvious love for Sam Peckinpah paraded throughout.

For those of us who endured so many years of understandable negativity towards Gibson for his personal troubles, GET THE GRINGO is the film we've long awaited. It's truly a shame this film won't be seen wide in the U.S. It would've been a better comeback vehicle than EDGE OF DARKNESS was meant to be. GET THE GRINGO practically screams, "Remember me? I'm still here, and I still got it!"

But if one thing is certain, it is that in the age of home entertainment, every good film gets discovered by an audience. Sooner or later...

Now THIS is how you make a proper action-thriller! "Get the Gringo" is one hell of a film; a stripped-down, gritty actioner reminiscent of the kind of dark, no-nonsense thrillers we saw back in the '70s and '80s. With so many glossy, CGI-laden blockbusters hitting screens these days, it's invigorating to see Mel Gibson who grows more badass with each passing year doing what he does best in his first true action-thriller since 1998's "Payback". Gibson may be controversial, but those who are open-minded enough to watch "Get the Gringo" will be rewarded with a visceral, lively motion picture featuring Gibson back at the top of his game.

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"To the untrained eye it looks as if crime pays doesn't it, but bear in mind for guys with my particular set of karmic could-be's there was bound to be a bump or two down the road." After a car chase ends with Driver (Gibson) being caught be the Mexican police he is thrown in to their prison. Able to come and go as he pleases within the town he meets a nine year old boy who fills him in on the local people and problems. Wanting to get his money back from the corrupt cops Driver also decides help the young boy and his mother. I have to admit that I am a Mel Gibson fan. His last movie, "The Beaver" was outstanding and really was in unison with his personal meltdown. This movie, while not as good as that one still has some similarities to his life. This is about a man trapped and trying to not only help himself to straighten out, but also realizing that helping others is just a fulfilling. I may be reading too much into this and it may be just me though. The only down side is that after a string of great movies like "Edge Of Darkness" and "The Beaver" this one isn't quite that caliber. This is a good and entertaining movie though, just not at that level. Overall, a movie that has the feel of an Oliver Stone type movie that is fun to watch and is entertaining as well as violent. I recommend this. I give it a B+.

Read Best Reviews of Get the Gringo (2012) Here

Ah, how the mighty have fallen. Mel Gibson, once the world's highest-paid actor (after receiving an at-the-time-record-breaking $30 million payday for his role in THE PATRIOT) and beloved by millions, got drunk one night, said some bad things, was drowned in REALLY negative press (some very deservedly so), and he went from superstar to pariah in just a few weeks. And here, he's co-written his own (essentially) Direct to Video star vehicle called GET THE GRINGO, a return to form into the kind of role that made him famous: The Violent Rascal. This is the type of role he helped to create the archetype for in the LETHAL WEAPON series and that he brought to many other films as well. But his character here is a little edgier, a little darker, a little more clever if not as violent and incendiary as Martin Riggs.

The film opens with a car chase through the desert along the American/Mexican border. Two police cars are chasing a car driven by a character only known as "Driver" (Gibson). Seeing no way out on this side of the border, he crashes through the fence onto the Mexican side of the border, but it's straight out of the frying pan and into the fire as the corrupt Mexican federales see bags loaded with millions of dollars in the car and they dump Driver, obviously a career criminal, in a prison referred to El Pueblito, which is NOT like the prisons you see in The U.S. of A; in The Driver's words, "Is this a prison, or the crappiest mall on Earth?". There are non-prisoners amongst the population, such as wifes and children and some are allowed to come and go. There are also small but lucrative businesses in the prison; drugs, guns, prostitution, but also little food stands and bodegas that sell cigarettes, candy, soda pop and beer. The Driver is a man constantly on the move and on the make. He makes the observations of a thief and of someone intimately familiar with the prison system and hierarchy and sees the easiest way to get at the goods. It is during one of these observations that he sees Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), the kingpin of El Pueblito and also during one of his thefts that he finds an ally in a tough 10-year-old boy, simply called "Kid" (Kevin Hernandez) who lives in the prison with his equally-tough mother (Dolores Heredia, also simply credited "Kid's Mom"), an inmate busted for drug trafficking some time before. Kid and Javi are on a collision course for reasons that I won't spoil here, but with Driver finding a friend in the kid and the mother, Driver has more personal reasons for staying.

There are other fun sub-plots involving a corrupt U.S. Consulate official, the mobster Driver stole the money from, and various other shady individuals doing various shady things. The major cast is made up mostly of unknowns to American audiences and the performances by Kevin Hernandez and Cacho are pretty layered and exciting, but it is also populated with various other character actors, such as Dean Norris, Bob Gunton, Patrick Bauchau and Peter Stormare in very small roles. The director is Adrian Grunberg, a former assistant director making his feature directing debut. He's worked with Mel in the past on films like APOCALYPTO and EDGE OF DARKNESS, but his influence from others is more felt from his work on films like MAN ON FIRE, TRAFFIC and JARHEAD. Grunberg directs the film with some gusto and urgency, but make no mistake though: this is Mel's movie through and through. The character of Driver is very similar to his likable bad guy Porter in the original cut of 1998's PAYBACK (because the "Final Cut" released a few years back on DVD, his character is much darker). It's obvious that Mel's having a really good time making this film, and it's obvious that he co-wrote this (with director Grunberg and co-producer Stacy Perskie, a PA who worked with Grunberg on a few other films) to give himself a star vehicle that felt more like what we used to see him in, as opposed to the extremely dark EDGE OF DARKNESS or the heavier drama of THE BEAVER. All of the violent acts he commits have a cartoony action film feel to them and they're mostly committed with a glint in his eye, particularly a bravura sequence with two hand grenades and an umbrella.

Despite what you may think about Mel Gibson personally, it hasn't diminished his capabilities as a consumate performer who does his best to engage the audience in his films. This film shows how much of a badass Mel can still be, but he's also gotten to a point where he's starting to wear his age well. I know (and I believe Mel knows as well) that he will never get back to where he was with star vehicles like GET THE GRINGO, but at least we can still get films where we get to see Mel kick some tail and have some fun with him along the way.

3.5/5 Stars

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The title of this review pretty much sums up GET THE GRINGO: a violent, darkly humored noir piece. (A friend of mine described it as PAYBACK'S "spiritual prequel.") The film starts with a masked thief (Gibson) making his getaway across the desert. He ends up crashing (literally) across the border, and winds up stuck in El Pueblito, a Mexican prison run more like a small town. He befriends a kid (the excellent Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia), while at the same time trying to get his money back, protect the boy (who is basically a living organ farm), dealing with a corrupt U.S. official (Peter Gerety), and the mobster he stole the money from in the first place (Peter Stormare doing his crazy thing).

As you can tell, there's a lot going on here. Too much so, perhaps. The film feels too much like Gibson's previous PAYBECK (basically, it's the same thing, except half the film is in Spanish); this is both in terms of tone (very dark in spots, very humorous in others) and plot. Gibson is great, as usual; say what you want to about the man, but as an actor, no one does likeable sleaze better. He's still got some bite to him, and there's never any knowing what his character will do next. The direction, too, is solid; the problems lie with the script, which tries to do too much. The subplots stumble over each other; this is, at its core, a simple story, like PAYBACK (I'm thinking the Director's Cut here), and should not go off on so many tangents. Still, in terms of grit and fun, GET THE GRINGO offers plenty of both. And, let's face it, it's nice to see Mel Gibson sinking his fangs into a dirty role again. Who knows--if he somehow cleans up his public image, he could be having blockbusters again. (Well, maybe not; but at least he's still got the chops to pull them off.)

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