In Adrian Grunberg’s action/heist movie Mel Gibson plays the titular gringo, a career criminal who finds himself in a Mexican gaol unlike any other he’s ever had the fortune of ‘visiting’. Like a self-contained city, the gaol has no cells but instead features entire families living in squalor, surrounded by shops and with easy access to guns, heroin and anything else that one would desire. Gibson’s character, only referred to as the ‘driver’, has a lifetime’s worth of experience as a thug and conman and so immediately starts to work on a plan to escape.
Despite a rather ugly and poorly filmed opening scene, Get the Gringo soon settles into an interesting narrative as the driver quickly learns about the pecking order in the prison. Whilst I often feel uneasy when Hollywood revels in exaggerating the poverty of the less affluent areas of the world, at the very least this has a real world antecedent with the Bogotan jail featured in the doco ‘A Jail in Colombia’.
Gibson puts on a good show here. The voiceover used throughout the film can be, as is usually the case, superfluous. It doesn’t add much to the storytelling but it doesn’t ruin the film. We learn about the systems in place within the prison at the same time he does, and it’s an original enough setting (outside of science fiction films like Escape From New York) to maintain interest.
The tone of Get the Gringo is a little inconsistent. It’s light hearted and over the top, yet also features moments of sadistic violence. This kind of paradox doesn’t sit well with me. Although ultra violence is often a hallmark of films of this nature, I never particularly liked it when such moments feature in close proximity to comedy (such as Nurse Betty). I’d much prefer that sadistic glee be reserved for straight-faced outings such as the recent Statham film, Safe.
The opening scenes aside, Get the Gringo has a punchy sense of pace and it never gets boring. The visual effects work is underwhelming and the cinematography feels less than polished in general. I don’t have a problem with films shot on formats other than traditional film (such as Paranormal Activity, or indeed Apocalypto), but this regularly shifts from the grainy ‘film’ look to that of video, which can be distracting. The action is well-conceived yet isn’t captured with any visual panache.
An entertaining film with an intriguing setting, the inconsistency in tone was the only element of Get the Gringo that really let me down.Rating: