Get the Gringo

It’s a shame that we’re at the point in Mel Gibson’s life when he’s no longer a big box office draw. His personal life is perhaps the biggest reason for this, although I’ve never been one to take that into account when deciding whether or not to watch a film. I know others do, however, and if there’s one star still working in Hollywood that’s more disliked than Mel Gibson, I’m not sure who that would be. It’s too bad, because Gibson is a really good actor and if people just view him by his work on-screen, he should still be able to put people in seats.

It’s with Get the Gringo that a film produced, written by and starring Mel Gibson has almost reached direct-to-DVD status. It’s not quite there, as this film is going to VOD first, but it’s close enough, isn’t it? In America, you don’t get to go to the theaters to see this movie. Overseas, some theaters will show it. I suppose it shows the lack of faith from any studio given Gibson’s last two flops. Get the Gringo is a pretty decent film, too, which makes this even more disappointing.

Gibson plays the lead role as an unnamed character who begins the film dressed as a clown. He and another man have recently acquired a great deal of money, illegally, and are being pursued by police officers just a couple of miles from the Mexican border. They crash through the fence, killing the man not named Mel Gibson, while our lead is captured by the corrupt Mexican cops who sentence him to a prison and take the money that he stole. It’s in this jail that the majority of Get the Gringo takes place.

Now, picture what you normally think a prison looks like and throw that image out the window. The one in the film is portrayed more like a down-on-its-luck flea market. There is a community, an ecosystem, present in this place, and despite it being difficult to survive within, it’s not exactly the worst place one could be sentenced. I mean, there’s always the threat of being killed for no reason whatsoever, but you can own possessions and can take days off from “prison” work. Children can come and go as they please.

In fact, this setting is so fascinating that it works as its own character, far more interesting than anyone else in the film. That’s not even a knock on them — Gibson’s flawed, yet kind character is just fine, for example — but I just really got into this environment. Gibson’s survival in this place is somewhat reliant on a child (Kevin Hernandez), who becomes his only real friend. There is eventually something that the pair of them have to do, but I’ll leave that to be discovered by you.

This isn’t as action-packed as you might have been led to think based on the trailers. Most of the film is about surviving in this environment. It’s more of a drama than anything else for the majority of its running time. That’s fine, and Gibson has never had a problem with playing this type of character, but if you’re thinking it’ll be action from start to finish, you’ll be disappointed. This is more a thinking man’s action movie. Think The American and you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

Get the Gringo is a slick, somewhat funny movie, too, which helps ease it along. Oh, its subject matter isn’t at all pleasant to watch, but because it’s well-made and has some funny moments, the time flies by. It’s been trimmed to the bones, too, which is usually a good thing with a project like this. It plays for only 96 minutes, and that’s just about the perfect length. Any longer and we might start to get bored. If it was shorter, we might wonder why things are happening, or we might lose some of our character moments.

The action that we do get isn’t very good, mostly to keep the budget down and stop it from being as violent as Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it did seem like the too-fast moving camera and quick cutting was done to hide what would have been extremely graphic scenes. Maybe the fake blood or CGI budget ran out early on so they had to ensure we couldn’t see anything. The drama is far more compelling than mediocre action.

Mel Gibson could probably play this role in his sleep, but he’s not allowed to. If he slips, especially because he’s the brain behind the film — he wrote and produced the film, and the director, Adrian Grunberg, serves as his assistant director on Apocalypto, among other things — he could completely vanish from the movies. He’s already pretty far down. But he gives a convincing and gritty performance here, as he often does, and I would hate to see him leave cinema. Kevin Hernandez holds his own as the kid sidekick, too, although Gibson is clearly the star.

I don’t know if Get the Gringo will turn Mel Gibson’s career around, but for the controversial star, it’s a valiant effort with decent execution. Inside this film is a well-crafted environment for a tale of survival and character drama, where the prison acts as a separate and ever-changing character. If you don’t hate Gibson enough as a person to stay away from his films, and you really shouldn’t, this is an attempt at a comeback that is worth a watch.

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