Directed by: Adrian Grunberg.
Written by: Mel Gibson and Adrian Grunberg and Stacy Perskie.
Starring: Mel Gibson (Driver), Peter Stormare (Frank), Dean Norris (Bill), Bob Gunton (Mr. Kaufmann), Scott Cohen (Frank's Lawyer), Kevin Hernandez (Kid), Patrick Bauchau (Surgeon), Dolores Heredia (Kid's Mom), Gerardo Taracena (Ramiro), Jesús Ochoa (Caracas), Daniel Giménez Cacho (Javi).
Mel Gibson was one of the biggest movie stars in the world not all that long ago. But through his own actions off screen, his career has gone into a tailspin that may just be impossible to recover from. Yet, I don’t much care about movie stars personal lives – no matter how screwed up they are, no matter how vile their personal views are. I prefer to judge what I see on the screen. Gibson co-wrote and co-produced in his new film, Get the Gringo, directed by Adrian Grunberg, making his debut film, although he has been a protégé of Gibson’s. I have feeling he may well have been more active in directing this movie as well – it bears a striking resemblance, especially in its depiction of violence, as Gibson’s films behind the camera.
Get the Gringo stars Gibson as a nameless American, who when the movie opens is racing away from the cops towards the Mexican border, with a few million dollars in cash, and a dying partner in the backseat. Rather than being taken in by the Americans, he decides to rev his car up and jump the fence into Mexico. His plan doesn’t look like it’s going to work – the Mexican cops don’t want to deal with him, so they’re just going to let the Americans have them – until that it, they see the cash in the back, and decide they will take him in after all. They take his money, and throw Gibson in prison – but this is like no other prison you’ve ever seen before. It’s more like a slum with wall around it – you can’t get out, but if you are arrested, you can pay to have your family live with you in the burnt out shacks. Gibson befriends a kid (Kevin Hernandez), who is protected by the prison’s unofficial leader – mob boss Javi (Daniel Gimenez), because the kid has something he needs.
Get the Gringo is the type of role that Gibson does very well. He clearly isn’t a good guy in the film – but, except for the kid and his mom, he is more of a good guy than the rest of the people in this movie. The cops, on both sides, are corrupt and vile. The American consulate who visits Gibson in jail is even worse. The guy that Gibson stole from is even worse than that. And the Mexican villains, especially Javi, are the worst yet. In this world, a violent man like Gibson’s character is the only person not to completely revile. In that way, it reminded me of another recent Gibson film – the underrated Edge of Darkness. The problem here is that Get the Gringo is as well written or directed as Edge of Darkness. It desperately wants to be a modern day Sam Peckinpah film – a violent, morally complex cross border thriller that uses strong, graphic violence to make a point. The problem is I don’t think Get the Gringo really has a point. It really has nothing on its mind other than all that violence.
I did like the way Get the Gringo begins – the opening scene is exciting, and sets up the rest of the movie perfectly. And as Gibson figures out how the prison works, the film is entertaining, and seems to be building to something bigger than what ultimately delivers. After an effective setup however, Get the Gringo devolves into nothing but violence and predictable plot twists. When the movie ended I was left with an overwhelming sense of disappointment. Was this really all this movie, with such a fascinating setup, wanted to accomplish?
Get the Gringo isn’t a horrible movie – even when it devolves into violence, it well staged and entertaining – even if it does utilize slow motion too much. But the Gibson’s performance, which is quite good, deserves better than the screenplay he helped write. There is a reason why this film ended up going direct to video in North America – and it’s not all because Gibson’s star is tarnished beyond repair. Part of it is also because Get the Gringo just isn’t a very satisfying movie.