By Clint Morris
When it comes to DVD and Blu-ray, you’re either an audio commentary type or you’re not. Usually it’s the film aficionado that will gladly let the talent speak over the top of whatever is going on on the screen; most others will quickly switch audio tracks so they can mute Jason Segel and hear the entire array of Muppet gags uninterrupted.
If you believe you fall into the latter category, you might find yourself reaching for an undetectable off knob once Mel Gibson’s newie starts up.
Gibson’s “Get the Gringo” previously bore the title “How I Spent my Summer Vacation” and I tell ya, though that wasn’t much of a drawcard title, it definitely tells you all you need to know about the flick tonally, thematically and artistically.
If a member of Gibson’s family had followed the controversial legend around for a couple of hours, let him loose on some of those ex girlfriends and wives he was determined to blast, and got him so plastered he ended up spending some time sobering up in a seedy jail.. the result would probably play a lot like this.
Okay, so there’s more gunfire, explosions and humour to be found in “Get the Gringo”, but still, you get the home video like commentary over proceedings, production values not a great deal better than the Griswold vacation holiday videos, and Mel being maniacal, so at times it really does feel like you’re watching – or rather listening to – a homemade thing someone’s left in the common room VCR.
That sounds like a negative connotation, and it isn’t – unless, of course, your cinematic diet consists exclusively of banal blockbuster fare.
“Gringo” is actually a good little flick. What I’m saying is that it’s not the Mel Gibson-action blockbuster his stringent fans have been waiting for; there’s more popcorn entertainment in the one straight jacket scene in “Lethal Weapon 2″ than this whole flick. And obviously, that’s going to bum a few out.
Grim, corny, violent and complete with a Gibson-archetypal flawed hero type, “Gringo” puts the actor’s crook character behind bars in a seedy Mexican prison where he quickly begins to study his surroundings, outsmart his fellow inmates and fuck over the authorities.
Co-scripted by Gibson and first time AD turned director Adrian Grunberg, “Gringo” features a fairly standard plot – a no-name Yankee, thrown in with the bad folk behind bars for robbery, tries to reclaim his loot, protect a mother and a boy who have come up against thugs, and manipulate his way out of prison by outsmarting those with his ticket out – but it’s the magnetic Gibson, in a kinda-sorta action role (His character here is more ‘Porter’ than ‘Riggs’) not unlike the ones he made his name for, that garnishes the dish. Like him or hate him, there’s no denying Gibson’s skills as an actor, and once again he instantly attracts attention and draws you in. The character of ‘Driver’ draws on Gibson’s strengths, at times resembling a grubbier, less polished version of earlier action hero types he’s played.
Imagine if the Robert Rodriguez of 1996 had got his hands on “Get the Gringo” and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what to expect – something economical but also crafty, fun and very well performed, and also bloody violent.
But like Rodriguez’s Mexicali actioner “El Mariachi”, “Gringo”‘s core fan will undoubtedly be the movie buff – someone who can appreciate diversity in film, the superlative one-man showcase, and the ability to draw one in with merely some cool lines or.. cool commentary. This is not like any of the action flicks Gibson has done before or, for that matter, something you’ll ever see from a major studio. It’s “different”. That’s it’s great asset and greatest flaw – depending on who you speak to.
I enjoyed this thing. Look, it’s not exactly explosive entertainment, but it’s an extremely likeable and admirable production that features some gold work from the resourceful Gibbo.
Like last year’s “The Beaver”, which featured an amazing performance by then-tabloid fave Gibson, it’s another terrific and admirable achievement for the one-time biggest star in the world that not nearly enough people are going to bother seeing.