Review: Get The Gringo
PLOT: After a mad dash to the Mexican border, a criminal (Mel Gibson) is captured by federales, and sent to a Mexican prison- which is so crooked that the co-ed inmates not only have access to drugs, prostitutes, and all the other comforts of a sordid existence, but their families are even allowed to join them inside for the duration of their sentence. Inside, the out of place gringo is taught to survive by a young boy (Kevin Hernandez) whose mother is serving a sentence for drug smuggling, and whose liver is coveted by the brutal prison kingpin.
REVIEW: Now this is what I call an action movie! Leave it to Mel Gibson, in his first all-out action film since 1998's PAYBACK to show Hollywood how to crank out a really effective, tight, R-rated actioner that puts right all of the things that are wrong with many modern American action films. In ninety minutes, Gibson- who co-wrote and produced, along with director Adrian Grunberg, manages to tell a compact, gritty story, stripped down to the bare essentials (no fat on this sucker)- in a way that puts hair on the chest of even the most jaded action movie junkie.
In a way, GET THE GRINGO feels like an unofficial follow-up to PAYBACK (the Gibson cut, rather than the recent, radically different “straight-up” version), although I'd wager that Gibson's unnamed anti-hero owes more to Martin Riggs than Porter. Unlike the dour Porter of PAYBACK, here, Gibson seems to be having a ball slipping back into action anti-hero mode, with his merry ass-kicker approach really playing to all of his strengths.
All the Gibson hallmarks are here. Wisecracks? Check. Double digit body count? Check CHECK. Climactic, bloody revenge? Hell yes. Gibson's propensity for onscreen maimings also get some prominent screen time, with one character losing a couple of toes in excruciating detail. Yeah- this ain't no PG-13 folks. Gibson earns a hard R with this one, with the carnage almost reaching APOCALYPTO levels- especially in a lengthy prison shoot-out, that ramps up the violence to a true “holy shit” level.
Truly, GET THE GRINGO is not for the squeamish, but action junkies will absolutely devour this. In his early middle age, Gibson comes off as more bad-ass than ever, with the extra lines in his face giving him the look of a guy who's had more than his share of trouble (as indeed, Gibson has had in the last few years). For me, older action stars, such as Gibson, and someone like Liam Neeson will always have a leg up on the younger stars, as they bring a level of experience and world-weariness to their roles that wouldn't be believable in a younger star. Granted, Gibson comes to the film with a good deal of baggage- but it fits the character to a tee.
Along with a vintage hero, we also get a somewhat vintage approach- with this being very much in the spirit of something a guy like Sam Peckinpah or John Frankenheimer would have had a field day with in the sixties and seventies. Additionally, Gibson and Grunberg also seem to have been heavily influenced by South American cinema- especially the ELITE SQUAD films or CITY OF GOD. Shot on what appears to be DV by Benoit Debie, in a style that calls to mind the work he's done on films like IRREVERSIBLE, and ENTER THE VOID, GET THE GRINGO manages to put over a real gritty vibe, that's about as outside the mainstream as you can get. It all adds up to a very bad-ass package- with the incredible final half-hour being a real standout, complete with more honest tension than I've gotten out of an action film for years.
It's a shame that GET THE GRINGO is skipping a theatrical release in North America, and I wish I had the chance to see it on the big-screen- but being in Canada (where it's not even going to be available on VOD), I was lucky to see it at all. Granted, Gibson comes with a certain amount of baggage, so a 2000 screen release was probably never in the cards. This is irrelevant to the film, but it explains why it's getting the release it's getting- which is a shame. Say what you will about the man, but his films are very consistent. Nevertheless, if this happens to be available on VOD in your neck of the woods, you're in for a wild ride. Hopefully it'll do well enough that perhaps Fox will consider some kind of limited theatrical release. It's a terrific action flick, and the kind that needs to be supported by those who appreciate the genre.