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Get the Gringo
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by Jack Sommersby

"Both Gibson and the Movie Deliver"
4 stars

Definitely one of those movies that sneaked under the radar yet is far more enjoyable than many of those highly publicized movies that have you leaving the theatre disappointed.

After giving extraordinary performances as the vengeful Boston policeman in Edge of Darkness and the mentally unstable toy-company CEO in The Beaver, here's Mel Gibson delivering another twenty-four-karat star performance in the inventively scripted, adroitly directed action picture Get the Gringo. Some may be tempted to dismiss it since it barely got a theatrical release in the States, and also because Gibson's tumultuous racist and sexist off-screen shenanigans cost him a considerable amount of good will with both the Hollywood community and mainstream audiences, yet it's a first-rate piece of escapist entertainment -- far better, in fact, than the latest boondoggles from Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Last Stand) and Sylvester Stallone (Bullet in the Head). Gibson co-wrote the screenplay, and it's one of those little jewels that supplies interesting characters we can have something of an emotional stake in and surprising plot turns that adhere to an inner consistency. As the movie opens, Gibson's unnamed career criminal is involved in a high-speed chase with the American police alongside the California/Mexico border; he and his dead-in-the-next-seat accomplice are wearing clown suits with a satchel of two-million dollars in the back seat (though it's not mentioned, we assume these are the disguises they pulled their robbery in). Gibson manages to crash through the countries-separating wall and is apprehended by the Mexican police; the money is confiscated and Gibson is thrown into a Tijuana communal prison unlike anything in the States -- it's a large courtyard with bodegas selling everything from food to beer to cigarettes, and shanties offering lethal instruments and narcotics (Gibson's voiceover remarks, "Is this a prison or the world's shittiest mall?"); and if you've got the bucks, a small but separate sleeping quarter for yourself can be obtained (it's reminiscent of the barbed-wire outside camp Al Pacino's criminal started out in in De Palma's Scarface). There's an orderly hierarchy with the wealthy drug-lord prisoners in posh accommodations collecting the sales and rents, and even the poor families who can scrap together the moola can have their families living with them. All of this is fascinating to the outside eye, and one of the pleasures of the movie is the gradual, textured laying out of the facility and the sense of dailiness among the populace -- it's the kind of vivid observant detail we got in Robert Altman and Jonathan Demme's earlier efforts. Which is something particularly deserving of praise being that this is the directorial debut of Adrian Grunberg, who was the first assistant director of the superb Gibson-directed Apocalypto and who displays an expressive fluidity in his assured staging.

Get the Gringo has its share of action sequences, to be sure, and while they deliver the goods they're properly proportioned so we're never bombarded by them to where the human element becomes obscured. It's an unusually well-thought-out production that has the confidence in its contextual value to give us three-dimensional villains as well as a believable, interesting protagonist, along with an intricately-threaded crime plot that never shows its hand until the satisfying conclusion -- there's the matter of an additional unaccounted-for two million dollars from the robbery, and both the powerful white-collar crook it was stolen from and the corrupt Mexican police will stop at nothing to get it. There's also a foul-mouthed, cigarette-mooching kid who becomes Gibson's closest ally who, thankfully, never goes precociousness on us; and his not-ugly, not-unattractive mother becomes Gibson's love interest while at the same time justifying our own interest -- it's refreshing to see an actor of Gibson's former heartthrob self willing to be photographed unflatteringly (the accordion-lined forehead, sunken eyes) and have a female co-star of his age and no-longer-handsome looks (though it doesn't quite have the poignancy of the James Woods/Elpidia Carrillo one in Oliver Stone's Salvador). The question that remains, however, is whether American moviegoers are willing to get past Gibson's brought-it-on-himself controversies and judge him by his artistic contributions. Before his career hit the stratosphere with the phenomenal 1987 Lethal Weapon, where he did a galvanizing turn as the brazenly suicidal cop Martin Riggs, Gibson came off as unsure, closed-off (Mrs. Soffel, The River), as if he weren't particularly comfortable in front of the camera; and when he attempted the ultimate Shakespearean role in Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 Hamlet, the result was nothing more than an honorable nice-try because he lacked the necessary confidence and force, as if he knew he weren't quite up to the demands. But take a look at his stellar performances since in The Man Without a Face, Braveheart, Conspiracy Theory, We Were Soldiers where you're watching an actor not just filling a role but flooding it with all the dramatic truth it can hold; with the possible exception of Russell Crowe, I can't think of anyone who acts with such unbridled, undiluted dedication yet with the disciplined control to keep the joie de vivre from uncouthly leaking out. (Sadly, today's idea of A-plus acting is Bradley Cooper's Oscar-nominated amateurishness in the appalling Silver Linings Playbook.) Priggish critics and judgmental audiences will likely view Get the Gringo as an irreverent piece of cinema, but its considerable entertainment value and top-drawer central performance are the real deal.

No special features on the DVD, unfortunately.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23900&reviewer=327
originally posted: 10/28/13 10:34:44
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User Comments

12/06/13 Pearl Bogdan Not the best and not the worst very much average but easy to watch 3 stars
8/13/12 Croweater888 Not one comment? This is a good film definitely worth a look. 4 stars
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  01-May-2012 (R)
  DVD: 17-Jul-2012

  11-May-2012 (15)

  31-May-2012 (MA)
  DVD: 17-Jul-2012

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