It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film like this. It seemed to be, back in the 90s, every other film was a Tarantino-esque or Shane Black-esque crime thriller with a sprawling cast of colourful characters having sometimes overwritten conversations in between bouts of hyperviolence but then new trends developed and this stopped being the trend du jour. Like all trends from the 90s though, that doesn’t mean it won’t rear its head again. It’s surprising that it’s been this long since we’ve got a full Hollywood treatment of this style, especially in regards to events south of the border, not really since Brad Pitt & Julia Roberts’ The Mexican (well, maybe if you count Rango…) so is this the sign that it’s time to revive this particular subgenre?
Gringo is a Crime Comedy about Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), a mild-mannered businessman who finds himself in over his head when he starts to uncover the more shady deals that his managers (Joel Edgerton, brother of writer and Director, Nash & Executive Producer, Charlize Theron) have been making on their trips to Mexico. So, when he senses his time with the company might be up, he does what any rational person would, he fakes his own kidnapping by the cartel. Meanwhile, the actual cartel are looking for him, a young couple (Harry Treadaway & Amanda Seyfried) are on holiday but really, he’s a drug smuggler and Harold’s boss has called in his brother (Sharlto Copley, as opposed to Edgerton’s actual brother who as mentioned, isn’t acting) to help bring him home. Still following?
The thing about Gringo is that it is positioned as a Crime Comedy and as a Crime film goes, it’s pretty fun, it’s got some good twists and turns, some strong performances, especially by Oyelowo, Theron and Copley but the main problem with it is, as a comedy, it’s just not that funny. Oyelowo gets a strong amount of comedic mileage out of his desperate fish-out-of-water act but really, it’s not so much a comedy in the sense of it not being deadly serious, see how it gives the cartel hefé a fun quirk where he keeps talking about The Beatles, hilarious! It also doesn’t really provide its female characters with enough to do, yes, for a film like this it’s nice that you can find space for three actresses of Theron, Seyfried and Newton’s calibre but with only really enough material for Theron, Newton and Seyfried do feel almost a hint tacked on. Though at least none of them are ever presented as Damsels-in-Distress.
All this in mind, as long as you try to think of it as a relatively uobeat crime caper and not a direct comedy, it’s reasonably enjoyable. It’s never as good as it should be considering the cast it has but it’s well-directed considering, technically proficient if never spectacular and the cast seem to be having a good time. Is it enough to push forward the Tarantino-lite revival? Probably not but is it a good enough way to spend an evening? I’d say so. Whether it’ll help tourism to Mexico, that’s a bit more up in the air.
Dir: Nash Edgerton
Scr: Anthony Tambakis, Matthew Stone
Cast: David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Harry Treadaway, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley, Thandie Newton, Paris Jackson, Alan Ruck, Kenneth Choi, Carlos Corona
Prod: Rebecca Yeldham, Nash Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Beth Kono A.J Dix, Anthony Tambakis.
Music: Christophe Beck
Run Time: 110 minutes
Gringo is available on Download and DVD now.
Gringo is Available on DVD, Blu-Ray & Digital Download now.