TL;DR – There are individual elements of Gringo that are interesting, but as a whole, the movie just doesn’t really work all that well
Score – 2 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
In some respects, Gringo is a really interesting film, because it is attempting something quite different from a narrative perspective, and it is clear that the cast is giving it their all. However, like a diver doing a front four and a half over-rotating and splashing into the pool, it just does not come together.
So to set the scene, Harold (David Oyelowo) is a worker at his good friend Richard’s (Joel Edgerton) pharmaceutical business. All his life he has been told that if he worked hard he would succeed well in his experience all it does is leave you getting exploited but those willing to cheat the system. But still he perceivers, when he discovers his wife’s (Thandie Newton) business is dragging them into bankruptcy because she only has one ‘client’ he perceivers, when he gets constantly sent down to Mexico to help make a drug work because it would be illegal to work on medical marijuana in America, he perceives. However, no one cares about all the work he is putting into it, in fact, Richard and his partner Elaine (Charlize Theron) are prepping to sell the company to a bigger firm at which point Harold was going to get the axe. Well, life is not great for Harold, and it is about to get a whole lot worse because when he is down in Mexico on his final trip he gets ‘kidnapped’. Well now Richard’s ex-mercenary brother Mitch (Sharlto Copley) is involved, also Black Panther (Carlos Corona) the local drug kingpin, and Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) a nice guitar store clerk, and everything has gone to pot.
While this film does not really work, and I am about to be quite negative about it, there were some aspects that were quite good or at least interesting. So to start with, I do think all the actors are giving the best with what they were given. Joel Edgerton plays a really interesting slimy boss that is only out for himself and does not care who he destroys in the process as long as he makes money. Charlize Theron is always great and here it was nice that she is one of the few characters with some depth, she uses sex to get her was and manipulate the men around her, but also she is not a complete and utter dick like Richard, in that she is fine if Harold is fired, but she doesn’t want to see him get killed by the cartels. Also, Sharlto Copley is really well cast as the mercenary turned aid worker turned maybe mercenary again, and his rapport with Harold is one of the highlights of the film. As well as this, there were moments in the film that were truly hilarious as all these competing narratives crash into each other. It is just a disappointment that it does not always work.
The one really big problem with Gringo is that while it has an ambitious story it just does not work, and because we are discussing the story there will be [SPOILERS] ahead. In many respects, Gringo is doing the same thing as a couple of other films like The Fifth Element have done in the past, where you have multiple storylines with people all wanting sort of the same thing and the crash into each other because no one has the complete information. However, unlike The Fifth Element bar one or two moments when the stories do intercut with each other there is never really much interest. Indeed, whole sub-plots like that of Sunny and her partner Miles (Harry Treadaway) could have been cut and you would have had a much more streamlined narrative. The one thing that does get you through the film is that they do a good job of setting up Harold to be always the nice guys, so you are rooting for him to help defraud his employer of funds through a fake kidnap scheme, which then leads to him being real kidnapped but then not. As well as this, Gringo has a tone problem as it swings from farcical slapstick to cold-blooded murder in the same five minutes and while some films can pull off that disconnect, Gringo is not one of them.
In the end, do we recommend Gringo? No, no we don’t and that is a pity because they are clearly trying. But the film’s story just does not work, the good acting can’t make up for that, it also at times it just falls into lazy stereotypes and it completely wastes Thandie Newton which might be the most egregious error of them all.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Gringo
Directed by – Nash Edgerton
Story by – Matthew Stone
Screenplay by – Anthony Tambakis & Matthew Stone
Music by – Christophe Beck
Cinematography by – Eduard Grau
Edited by – Luke Doolan, David Rennie & Tatiana S. Riegel
Starring – David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley, Carlos Corona, Diego Cataño, Rodrigo Corea, Yul Vazquez, Harry Treadaway, Alan Ruck & Kenneth Choi
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R