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Get the Gringo Movie Review - -

Get the Gringo

    Reviewed by Damien Straker on May 17th, 2012
presents a film directed by Adrian Grunberg
    Screenplay by Adrian Grunberg, Mel Gibson and Stacy Perskie
Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez and Dolores Heredia
    Running Time:
95 mins
    Rating: MA
    Released:  May 31st, 2012




A man known only as Driver (Mel Gibson) is fleeing in a getaway car from the US Border Patrol. In the back of his car is a haul of several million dollars and his accomplice who is bleeding to death. When Driver crashes in Mexico he is arrested and thrown into the prison 'El Pueblito'. The place has the look of a filthy, rough prison but it is also populated with children, shops and drug dens. The place is overrun by organized crime, meaning that the wealthy and the cunning stand at the top of its hierarchy and the guards are bought. Driver has a military background as a sniper and uses his vision to assess the area. He befriends a ten year old boy (Kevin Hernandez) who is being targeted by a crime boss because he is the right match for a liver transplant. Driver looks to protect the boy and his mother (Dolores Heredia) but there are people who are still keen to take back the money that he stole.

Get the Gringo is from first time director Adrian Grunberg, who was an assistant on Mel Gibson's Apocalypto (2006). Gibson helped him co-write the screenplay and was also a producer himself, which suggests that he must have thought this film was a good idea. The only redeeming feature of this appallingly savage and unpleasant film is its setting. The way that it is visualised here, as a free roaming compound overruled by gangsters, I could hardly believe that such a place would exist. Driver's voice over, narrating the film, asks us: "Was this a prison or the world's shittiest mall?" Yet according to reports, 'El Pueblito' was actually real. Prisoners could shop freely and the drug trade was so viable that it became pertinent in upholding the facilities economy. The prison was shut down back in 2002, after it was raided by two thousand law enforcement officers. I think it would make for a fascinating documentary to explore how such an institution could be so morally and politically bankrupt. The setting is undeniably intriguing but it's wasted on a subpar crime story that is increasingly implausible, stupid, cliché ("He killed my father!") and derivative of better films, including Gibson's own Payback (1999). The direction of the film is as careless as the spatiality that is depicting. The look of the film feels right. It's grubby, sweaty and ugly: the textures belong to a hardcore prison block. Yet the potential for a realistic and detailed prison drama is undone by immature writing and meaningless stylistic decisions. Gibson and Grunberg are interested in selling an attitude but with little reasoning. They try their hardest to shock. Take an early freeze-frame on Driver's friend as he coughs up blood in the backseat of the car. The image is paused momentarily so that we can see the blood spurting out of his mouth. What's the point?

Similarly, Gibson now in his mid-fifties, is intent on pushing himself as an action hero with a chip on his shoulder. It's like he's joined forces with Liam Neeson, determined to prove that geriatrics have still got it. He willingly throws himself into embarrassing slow-motion gunfights and commando rolls but gives us no reason to care whatsoever. Most of the personality in his dry, one-note performance is derived solely from his voice-over, which offers a handful of quips to lighten the mood. The one question I have about Driver is concerned with his athleticism. When he was in the army, how regularly did they practice the move of diving in midair to catch a grenade to throw it back? Did he learn this from fielding in cricket matches?  The film would like to be Robert Rodriguez's Desperado (1995) but it's missing the fun. Some of the gunfights are cartoon-like, which is at odds with the violence that is offensively harsh. The boy and his mother are abused in the most heinous ways, forcing us to endure moments of torture that only the disturbed or easily amused could enjoy. I found it utterly repulsive. Violence can be brutal, as it is in any Tarantino film, but it must always have a purpose. Relying on shock value, like Gibson and his director do here, is the cheapest and laziest way of drawing a reaction from people. Interestingly, it must have been decided that the film would not bode well with American audiences as it is not seeing a theatrical release there. Wisely, it's going straight to video-on-demand services. I've already called the film a rehash of Payback but it seems as though Gibson's career is retracting in so many other ways.


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