Starring: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Dolores Heredia, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris
Let’s not get into a discussion on personal feelings about Mel Gibson. He’s a human being with flaws, we all have them, and his celebrity status amplifies and makes public certain things that otherwise are no one’s business other than his and his family. Say what you want about the guy, but at the end of the day, for me, he’s a decent actor and director, and I’ve enjoyed many of his films over the years. I don’t really care what crazy ‘ol Mel is up to on his personal time, what’s important and relevant here is the films he either directs or performs in, so let’s get into this thing already.
Get The Gringo is fun. Plain and simple. Finding himself literally on the wrong side of the road, the Gringo (Gibson) finds himself in Federale custody after a bizarre chase through the desert just shy of the US border. Thrown into a decrepit Mexican prison, the Gringo soon finds himself surrounded by murderers, corrupt prison guards, and oddly enough, women and children who have come to actually “live” inside the prison walls with their husbands and fathers. The prison itself actually resembles more of third world shanty-town than a prison, with alcohol, food, cigarettes, and hookers readily available, as well as a fundamental form of money exchange and societal structure. The film doesn’t explore the more complex inner workings of the prison quite as much as I had hoped it would, but for what it does show, this place isn’t quite the hell-on-earth I was expecting. The prison is run by a very corrupt family, one of whom, Javi (Cacho), is in desperate need of a liver transplant. The Gringo soon discovers that, like himself, most of the prisoners and their families that live in the prison have all been screened as possible matches for a liver by the greedy and selfish Javi. When the Gringo befriends a cigarette smoking young boy (Hernandez), he learns that the boy is “special” in the eyes of the prison staff, moreover, the boy’s blood matches Javi’s, and it’s only a matter of time before his liver can be harvested and transplanted. Gibson’s portrayal of the Gringo is great, one that seems to give him the opportunity to let off, perhaps, some of his real-life steam onto the screen as a grizzled, cigarette smoking, f-bomb dropping thief in search of redemption, on some small-scale, behind prison walls. As the film evolves into a much deeper plot involving extremely powerful outside interests in the United States as well as a budding love interest between the Gringo and the boy’s mother, Get The Gringo maintains it’s grip throughout, while not taking itself too seriously.
First time director Adrian Grunberg delivers the goods well on multiple levels here. Having served as Assistant Director on such films as Traffic, Man on Fire, Jarhead, and Gibson’s Apocolyto, Grunberg is no novice to taunt thrillers and action packed direction. With what we can all assume was plenty of directorial advice from Gibson, Get The Gringo succeeds in telling an interesting and engaging thriller that, while not Oscar worthy, aptly brings the characters and scenes out with precision timing and dutiful storytelling. While not every avenue was explored, or for that matter, fully explained, Get The Gringo works because it’s a fast paced, sometimes funny, and always entertaining action thriller. I respect Gibson for continuing to make movies, and perhaps now that he’s fully self-funded (he really doesn’t have a choice), we might get a whole new wave of Mel Gibson directs, free of Hollywood influence and money, which I’d actually have no problem with.
Mel Gibson might not be a saint, and his problems might not be quite on the same level as ours, but in reality we are all flawed in one way or the other and no one is perfect. Is he a dick outside of movies? Who knows. He sure does things that could quite possibly certify him as batshit crazy, but at the end of the day, I find myself simply enjoying Mel Gibson’s movies, plain and simple. Get The Gringo is an awesome flick that deserves to get some play, and with theatrical releases around the world, aside from the US where it went straight to on-demand, it will definitely have it’s time in the spotlight.
4 out of 5