Spring Break in Mexico for Idiots
When I checked out the trailer for Gringo, I was sold on the premise: a dark comedy about being taken hostage by a Mexican drug cartel featuring an ensemble cast of experienced thespians flexing their funny bones. But before going into this film, I was reminded of a lesson that Game Night taught me: comedies are very hard to pull off. They can so easily go horribly wrong, even with a solid premise. Nevertheless, hopes were high that Joel Edgerton’s brother, Nash could wrangle a wealth of talent into an entertaining time at the theaters. What we got instead was a film that wanted to be every genre under the sun and consequently piss away potential the idea may have had. But hey I’ve already one disappointment this week, may as well go for seconds.
So at the center of this mess is Harold (David Oyelowo) a man in middle management of a pharmaceutical company who’s pushed around by gold digger wife (Thandie Newton) and his domineering and rude boss, Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton). While Rusk’s company is in the middle of marketing a medical marijuana pill for a merger with the help of Charlize Theron’s hypersexual Elaine, Harold realizes that he will be the first person out of a job when the merger is finalized. Deciding to take matters into his own hands, Harold disappears while on a business trip to Mexico and feigns getting taken hostage in order to bank on his company’s insurance policy. Unfortunately for him, Rusk has no intention of paying the ransom because he hires his ex-mercenary brother (Sharlto Copley) to extract the rogue middle manager. Meanwhile, a ruthless drug cartel lead by the Black Panther (no not that one) is looking for Harold when he gets screwed out of a business deal by Rusk. In the middle of all of this, you have Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway as tourists in Mexico, and one of the pair is secretly trying to steal the formula to the weed pill for some punk drug dealers in Los Angeles.
Now that I’ve typed out that plot synopsis, I had to take stock of how convoluted this mess actually was. Because ironically the film isn’t very hard to follow, if only because it moves at a glacier’s pace so your mind has time to process all these various players on the chess board. It’s reminiscent of an old Guy Ritchie affair like Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but those comedies had a good pace of jokes and gallows humor in between all the complicated back stabbings and happenstance that have a miniscule probability of actually happening. But the absurdity of the situations contributed to the fun of those classics and it indeed helps Gringo out somewhat. But this film is sorely lacking in the comedy department with many jokes that don’t land and the ones that do are only in the trailer.
This is a film that’s honestly constantly at odds with itself, it really has no idea what the hell it wants to be. Sometimes it wants to be like Snatch by showing you multiple different perspectives from colorful characters talking smack, but other times it wants to focus on Harold freaking out and screaming everywhere in a heavy Nigerian accent. The jokes run the gamut of edgelord cussing to buffonish slapstick, but those are two wildly different tones for a comedy. And when the film decides to get all dramatic in showing that Harold’s wife is cheating on him on top of everything else you’ve seen and heard, and Charlize Theron’s character serves as a romantic rival against her…and oh my God I just realized I forgot that subplot as well.
But really, whatever kind of joke you’re presented with, it’s really not that funny. Not because it’s poor taste (on the contrary, the film’s best laughs come from the darkest material), but because the buildup for certain punchlines take WAY too damn long. This happens especially with a running joke in the movie as various characters cite an analogy involving animals to Harold, and it just drags on and on until you just wanna yell at the screen, “Stop beating the dead horse Gringo, it’s desecrated and you’re now beating the wet patch of blood you’ve torn through the flesh of the damn equine and now the giblets are in my eye and for God’s sake Chris, end this goddamn analogy.”
The only thing that spares this film oblivion is the fact the acting is actually decent across the board. Charlize Theron definitely wanted a role where she could kick back and just be cold blooded for a bit. Joel Edgerton definitely also has that itch and shows he can competently play a total dickwad. And hey, Sharlto Copley is always fun to see and act as an off-beat character, we seriously don’t give him enough credit for his penchant for that shtick. And David Oyelow definitely has demonstrated that he can lead a whole production on his lonesome, because he’s instantly likable even as he demonstrated in this movie. However, Amanda Seyfried’s character is absolutely superfluous and could have easily been cut out of the final draft with no one noticing and missing a beat. But the only tragedy for all these great thespians is that none of them have a great script to work off of.
Don’t get me wrong, they all do a decent job with what they’re given and they even all try to ad lib whenever they can for a decent time in order to save this script. But under the hands of severely inexperienced director like Nash Edgerton (who made his feature film solo debut here) and a script made by two dudes who didn’t really know how to rip off Guy Ritchie so much, the cast is left with no chance at all in order to salvage a solid premise. If you’re in the mood for a dark comedy, maybe you can enjoy this with the fast forward button handy, because Lord knows this is not worth a trip to theaters. It has positive qualities in its strong cast, so for that alone I can give this a very, very LOW…
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