‘Get the Gringo’ Embraces Silliness, Darkness

Get the Gringo is a great example about staying true to yourself.

Mel Gibson’s latest film, the debut from assistant director turned director Adrian Grunberg, embraces its many moving parts in full glorious Mexploitation fashion.

Part of Grunberg’s film, which he co-write with Gibson and company, is a campy fun. Its plot, which follows Gibson’s nameless character as he figures out life in a bizarre Mexican prison after robbing millions from…Frank (Peter Stormare).

I am not exactly sure if this prison, “El Pueblito,” is historically authentic or even based on one ounce of research, but I highly doubt it. Gibson’s character, which the credits call “Driver” based on the fact that he was driving the getaway car for a few minutes (give me a break), enters this prison that acts more like a town. Like any society it has a system of social rankings. It functions like any other rich or poor society – except for the fact that it is surrounded by barbed wire fence and armed security.

In this prison, the hard-nosed Gibson meets his match. He gets to know a young boy and his mother. He becomes entwined in their situation with Javi, the prisoner who runs the game. It’s a very weird and bizarre set up, I must say. Other than the fact that they couldn’t leave it didn’t feel like anyone was in prison. They could invite (pay for) their family to live with them (hence the young boy and other schoolchildren) or use as much smack and other drugs as they needed to. Grunberg and Gibson sure created some twisted fantasy with “El Pueblito.” I think. There’s no way this can be real. Can it, Mexico?

I mentioned earlier that Get the Gringo embraces two sides. The first comes simply with the title of the film. Gibson’s hoarse-voiced dialogue is full of cheesy, cheap one-liners. Surprisingly a majority of these comments actually land with authority. The film is funny. In the intro Gibson and his partner are driving through the dessert with stolen money wearing clown masks. On the police radio we hear that “two clowns” are being chased. Ha ha. It’s all so knowing of what it is, which makes the film’s absurd and peculiar setting, plot and characters work.

In another moment of pure turbulent fight, Gibson’s character spots a grenade heading in a direction he doesn’t approve it. Like a Pro Bowl NFL wide receiver, Gibson tracks the grenade down, catches it, and throws it back. It’s this absurd violence and sequence that places Get the Gringo in a total cheesy and campy area.

But even though Get the Gringo is a great success because of how silly it can be, it holds itself well by also fulfilling a much needed hard boiled/noir vibe. Gibson’s character (whether you like him as an actor or not) is a flawed character, which is what Gibson often exceeds at the best. No, this isn’t a sequel to Payback, but it certainly could pass for one. He’s a rugged character and the actually decent voiceover supplied by Gibson (done in his best George Clooney voice) surprisingly adds to the film’s development.

I personally thought I was insane for giving this film a chance. But Gibson actually is on to something here. With his age and recent reputation he fits this kind of wacky yet dark role very well. Get the Gringo (also given the worse yet more politcally correct title How I Spent My Summer Vacation) isn’t perfect, but it damn well succeeds at being what it wants to be and embraces all of its silliness and seriousness at the same time.

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