EL GRINGO (2012)
Rating: 3.5 out of 4
Tagline: He's not in Acapulco anymore
Directed by: Eduardo Rodriguez
Starring: Scott Adkins, Christian Slater, Yvette Yates
THE PLAN: A bloody and bruised gringo stumbles into a Mexican village with a bag full of money and a bevy of bodies in his wake. All the man wants is a glass of water and a bus ticket to Acapulco, but he's soon to learn that neither quest will be easy... nor will saving his own ass from the various threats the town holds.
THE KILL: Not five minutes into EL GRINGO, Scott Adkins has blown up a man in a car and pissed on a handkerchief and wrapped it around his head to keep cool in the hot Mexican sun. A minute later he's beaten up three dog-torturing men, subsequently gaining himself one loyal canine companion; minutes later, he's wandered into the dirty little town which will be the scene of much distress and physical pain for him. EL GRINGO isn't a movie that moves slowly or subtly.
Scott Adkins plays the title character, a mysterious fellow who arrives on the scene in a battered car and a bleeding man in his trunk. As previously mentioned, neither the other man nor the car survive long, but El Gringo does, carrying with him a satchel of money and a dream of retiring to Acapulco. We'll learn via flashbacks where he came from and who he is, but at the moment he's just a man with no name wandering into a desolate village, the kind where the sight of a stranger covered in blood doesn't necessarily make anyone think twice.
Scott Adkins can make even the silliest pose intimidating...
Of course, Gringo finds almost immediately that no one in town is willing to help him, nor is he able to leave (there's a running gag where he keeps missing the bus). Not one to escape trouble easily, he becomes entangled with a local gang of face-painted thugs, a corrupt sheriff, a brazen thief who is forever after his bag, a shady cop on his tail (Christian Slater) and a sexy, fiery bar owner (Yvette Yates) who might prove to be the biggest obstacle of all.
EL GRINGO is a fast, funny and entertaining western that gets mileage from a tongue-in-cheek attitude and a very charismatic leading man. Scott Adkins, not necessarily known for his comedic timing but for his impressive martial arts skills, gives a surprisingly affable performance; prone to exasperated expressions and moments of levity, Adkins shows that he can do more than bash people into unconsciousness - although he's absolutely more than capable of doing that too. There isn't a more impressive physical specimen in the genre today, and the only thing that has been holding him back from a breakthrough is an inherent stiffness. Here he sheds that, loosening up and appearing thoroughly amused.
Adkins is stabbing her, so she just figured she'd return the favor...
Director Eduardo Rodriguez infuses his movie with ample helpings of style and humor. Obviously inspired by the El Mariachi flicks from Robert Rodriguez (not to mention Oliver Stone's U-TURN), there's a delirious amount of blood and violence in EL GRINGO, most of it to the joyous guitar-picking sounds of Mexican music. Rodriguez will frequently get too cute, over-editing some scenes with rapid-fire cuts and adding unnecessary sound/optical effects to give things a more cartoony vibe. Flick has enough vibrant energy that it doesn't need a manufactured, jittery effect in the mix. We'll forgive him though, as he keeps the movie humming at a swift pace, pausing occasionally to ogle Gringo's love interest.
Special mention should be made here to Christian Slater, playing a suspicious agent on Gringo's trail. The actor has a grand old time playing up the sleaze factor, and is a very welcome screen presence in the film. I actually could have used even more of him - let's release Slater from movie jail and welcome him back into the fold, what do you say?
EL GRINGO is highly recommended for folks seeking out a modern-day take on a Spaghetti western. It wears its inspirations on its sleeve proudly and doesn't take itself too seriously, except when it comes to the action, at which it is highly efficient. (Even then, the movie is more concerned with being enjoyable than vicious or brutal.) It's definitely way better than almost any direct-to-DVD action-thriller you're likely to find on the shelves; in fact, it's probably the best film Scott Adkins has ever been in.
the EL GRINGO trailer!
TOP ACTION:An extremely long sequence in which Gringo shoots, beats and bashes about a dozen men, all while running through town, trying to catch a bus and hoping to get just one sip of water. (He's a thirsty man throughout.)
TOP DEATH: EL GRINGO doesn't get to creative with the death scenes, sticking mostly to bullet and knife wounds.
TOP DIALOGUE: The crooked sheriff (Erando Gonzalez) is always complaining about the numerous stray dogs littering the streets; his memorable refrain is that they're "The scourge of this town!"
HOMOEROTIC MOMENT: Nothing to speak of.
FEMALE EXPLOITATION: Oh, Gringo finds himself a lovely chica named Anna who verbally spars with him but ultimately falls for him. (Natch.) One sweet scene finds Anna stripping off bits of clothing in order to patch up Gringo's wounds. Was a good time to get injured, let me tell ya!
DRINKING GAME: Drink every time a title card introduces a character's name. And make it tequila.
TRIVIA: Producer extraordinaire Joel Silver produced EL GRINGO along with After Dark Films, which usually sticks with the horror genre.