R eview written by Matthew Scott
Mel Gibson is back in fine form in the violent “Get the Gringo” (aka How I spent my Summer Vacation). This is the comeback film that many of us were waiting for during his self imposed 8 year hiatus from leading roles (had some drama in his personal life. May have heard about it?) Instead, we got Edge of Darkness (which never really elevated above a standard tv movie) and The Beaver (Gibson was well directed in this off beat comedy by long time pal, Jodie Foster, however the film was too dark to satisfy mainstream audiences).Both those films hardly made a dent at the box office and I dare say “Get the Gringo” will do the same (in fact, it’s US “video on demand” release virtually guarantees that it won’t be doing blockbuster coin). And that’s a real shame because “Get the Gringo” is a fantastic film from start to finish.
Had it been released 20 years ago (during Gibson’s hey day) it would have done blockbuster business for sure. It has all the trademarks of Gibson’s previous hits, over the top violence, dry humor, fun supporting characters, and a not original-but still fun to watch storyline.
In “Get the Gringo”, Gibson (credited as “Driver”) finds himself locked up in a slum of a Mexican jail after being apprehended by a group of corrupt border patrol officers. They keep the cash that Gibson stole from a well known US drug dealer (Peter Stormare), and throw him in prison under false charges (to hide the fact they have run off with the stolen $2 million), leaving him to rot. It’s in Prison that Gibson has to use all his wit and charm to ensure that he survives the gangs and drug dealers of this urban slum.
Corruption is rife and various inmates have paid for the privilege of having their families live with them whilst they serve time. It’s here that Gibson befriends a foul mouthed, cigarette bumming, 10 year old boy and his Mother. Upon learning that the boy’s Father was murdered by the prison’s crime boss, (in order to harvest the liver for his own life saving operation), and that he is keeping the boy in stock for another transplant, Gibson devises a plan to save his new found pal. Throw in having to deal with the drug dealer he ripped off, a solicitor who wants his piece of the pie, corrupt police officials, and a prison full of bad asses, Gibson definitely has his hands full.
In the director’s chair is Gibson’s ‘Apocalypto’ first AD, Adrian Grunberg, who does a superb job in his directorial debut. Together with director of photography Benoit Debie, they create a film so atmospheric, that you feel like you need a shower to clean yourself after watching. With characters caked in sweat and dirt, there are no pretty boy looks in this mel-in-prison film. Sure, it’s not going to win any awards for originality, but I don’t think that’s what any of the filmmakers were going for.
I went into this film and out of it I got, fun and escapism. I tuned in, then tuned out. Which is exactly what I’m after when I go to a film called “Get the Gringo”. Hopefully Mel’s private life doesn’t deter people from seeing the best action film of the year (so far). Here’s hoping it’s the start of a huge comeback.
Reviewed by Matthew Scott.