Chaos and Pandemonium Rule Supreme
Gringo stars Thandie Newton, David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Sharlto Copley, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, and many others. Very rarely does such a star-studded cast come together in a single film. Even more rarely does such a star-studded cast fail so miserably to breathe life into a film. But that’s exactly what happens – or fails to happen – in Nash Edgerton’s Gringo.
Gringo is one of those sprawling crime action comedies with lots of moving parts where chaos and pandemonium rule supreme. Done well, the result can be a laugh-out-loud fun time at the movies. Like a Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or a Snatch fun time at the movies. Done poorly, they end up like, well, Gringo. To be fair, Gringo’s failure to befriend its audience has nothing to do with the impressive cast. Well, other than the fact that there’s not a comedic actor in the bunch. But it has everything to do with a director clearly in over his head, a stable of uninteresting characters, a directionless plot, and a schizophrenic script so poorly written we’re not even sure what type of film it is supposed to be. It has a few moments, but those happen in the first third, and nothing that follows is worthy of a single laugh nor even the smallest of tingles on the excitement meter. Put simply, it’s a boring mess.
There’s one part of the story from writers Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone that forms the backbone of the plot in which Oyelowo stars as Harold, a beaten-down middle manager at a Chicago-based pharmaceutical company run by college friend Richard Rusk (Edgerton, the brother of director Nash Edgerton) a corrupt, day-drinking, secretary-banging corporate jerk. The company has recently pioneered a formula that distills marijuana down into pill form. With rumors swirling of a corporate merger, Harold fears his job may be on the line despite the reassurances of his boss.
While on a business trip to Mexico, Harold decides to act on the rumors of his impending firing by faking a kidnapping to collect on the company’s $5 million kidnapping insurance policy. You can probably guess how well his plan doesn’t go as he becomes entangled with a dangerous Mexican cartel and its Beatles-obsessed leader.
Then, there’s another part of the story in which a clueless care-free young couple, Sunny (Amanda Seyfriend) and Miles (Harry Treadaway), attempt to score a drug deal while vacationing in Mexico. You can probably see where this thread is going too. Their paths eventually cross with that of Henry, and the result of this secondary thread is really a needless overthought with no real point and even less value.
What type of movie is Gringo supposed to be? Bits of corporate satire intermingle with some moments of domestic drama, while political commentary and romantic betrayal are thrown in the blender along with heavy doses of brutal violence. These types of movies are very difficult to pull off. Getting the tone just right is difficult. It is one thing to take on a project like this, but like a performing ventriloquist, we’re only impressed if you can handle more than one thing at a time. Drinking water while throwing your voice? Now that’s impressive. With no moral center, no lessons to be learned, zero likable characters, and a lead who doesn’t seem totally invested in the project, it’s a blown gag.
If there’s anything good to say about Gringo, it is that it moves at a fast clip and at under two hours, it never feels too long. But unfortunately, all of its energy and forward momentum comes from hectic editing and mile-a-minute dialogue. On its march to success and acceptance by a wide audience, Gringo gets stuck on the wrong side of the border.
(Released by Amazon Studios and rated “R” for language throughout, violence and sexual content.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.