Starring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Sharlto Copley, Amanda Seyfried
Joel Edgerton’s brother Nash is the director of Gringo, his sophomore effort behind the camera. Both Edgerton’s have found success in various roles of filmmaking, but Gringo doesn’t showcase either of their skills. The second consecutive miscast role for Joel Edgerton (Red Sparrow) who began as a poor man’s Aussie heartthrob but, but now quite soft around the edges. Nash, a former stunt man, can’t find the right blend of comedy or action for this messy film. Gringo is overflowing with characters and an abundance of subplots. It takes the film until the third act for Oyelowo (Selma) to embrace the comedy, that’s where the film should have found its stronghold all along. The marijuana leaf adorns the poster but has little to do with the film, same goes for Amanda Seyfried.
A middle man in an American pharmaceutical company, discovers he is a pawn to a larger illegal drug operation in Mexico. Harold Soyinka (Oyelowo) is majorly in debt, in fear of being sacked at work, but clings to the idea that doing a great job will pay off in the end. Richard Rusk (Edgerton) and Elaine Markinson (Theron) who run the company, are using Harold as gopher to line their pockets. When they all travel to Mexico to end a long running deal, things don’t go as planned, and Harold ends up on everyone’s most wanted list. “One million dollars for Harold is like paying $1000 for a Whopper,” Rusk admits when a ransom deal is being negotiated.
Gringo is overflowing with characters and an abundance of subplots.
The script doesn’t seem to understand that Harold is the main character. Maybe Nash was so enthralled with the idea of directing someone like Charlize Theron (Mad Max Fury Road), he made her role larger than it needed to be. The Oscar winner’s performance is another grandstanding vixen that doesn’t add much to the overall story. Sure she gets to say some disgusting things and dress like Cruella Deville, but that’s only interesting for a few seconds. Thirty minutes into the movie Gringo fails to hook the audience to get invested in the plot or outcome. We go from scenario after scenario losing interest each time the plot takes another not-so-surprising-turn. The movie also can’t settle on a theme, the good guy always gets screwed?
Gringo isn’t unlike the 2001 film The Mexican, only that film was a lot more witty and entertaining. We lose sight of our Harold too often for other supporting characters to drive the narrative, making the film messy and overly complicated. I can see why Oyelowo took the role, it was a chance for him to show a range of skills within the course of one performance, but Edgerton doesn’t seem to trust him enough with the majority of screen time. Most of the characters feel like stereotypes in a film that tries to be everything yet ends up without much in the end.
Structurally fractured narrative makes Gringo messy and unfortunately boring.