Fox is making the right move going the video-on-demand route with the “waiting in the wings” Mel Gibson feature Get the Gringo, which is currently playing On Demand following a one night theatrical run back in mid-April. The film would actually be best suited for a direct-to-video release, but with the growing On Demand market this could prove to be a successful decision despite the actor’s continued public image issues.
Gibson co-wrote, produced and self-financed this $20 million picture, which is quite a high number considering Gibson is the film’s lone star. On top of that, it’s not as if first time feature director and fellow writer, Adrian Grunberg, demands much payment as he moves to the big leagues after years of first assistant and second unit duties on films such as Master and Commander and Jarhead. As far as first time features go, this seems about right.
Set in a Mexican prison, Gibson plays a man with no name, or at least no confirmed name as we’re first introduced to his character wearing a clown mask, driving a getaway car with his equally masked accomplice bleeding in the back seat. The chase ends with him crashing through a border fence, landing on the other side, his partner dead and he’s taken away in shackles by the Mexican police, intent on keeping the $2 million they found in the back seat, disposing of the dead body and shuffling Gibson off to jail.
The prison he’s assigned actually turns out to be a damn near self-sustaining city of its own with an upper and middle class of criminal (modeled after Tijuana’s El Pueblito), complete with bathrobe wearing muckety mucks up top and the disheveled worker bees below. Gibson, in the process of trying to find his way, gets involved with a 9-year-old kid (Kevin Hernandez who was pretty good in the comedy The Sitter and is here too) who has a grievance with the prison’s big dog, Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), for reasons I don’t need to spoil here.
Gibson’s character, referred to as Driver in the press notes, is eventually targeted by the really bad guys, which is when he works a few connections to stir things up. Guns are fired, CG blood begins to flow, grenades explode, illegal operations take place and, well, things happen that feel all too routine to really get too excited about.
There is little to talk about that necessarily stands out. This feels like any other R-rated violent feature you’d expect from the likes of Jason Statham and it isn’t really all that violent as $20 million apparently can’t buy you very good CG blood effects, but it does allow you to put together a decent set. The highlight, in fact, may be the set design, but the overall project is quite disposable.
As cliche as it is, Gibson appears to finally be getting “too old for this s**t”. Get the Gringo is being pushed as a return to the actor’s more R-rated efforts from Lethal Weapon to Payback, but the electricity isn’t there. Instead I see a tired old man as the lines carved into Gibson’s face are looking more weathered than ever and the fire behind those eyes isn’t burning as bright as it once did. He’s still got the goods in him, but this film doesn’t appear to have drawn it out of him.
As the lone star of the picture a lot falls on Gibson’s shoulders to carry it, but neither his performance, nor the character demands much of your attention and the bad guys are such stereotypical cardboard cutouts they aren’t offering much, if anything. Peter Stormare as one of the film’s baddies must have been on set for a solid 45 minutes to shoot his five minutes worth of footage and Bob Gunton spent more time warning Andy Dufresne to turn the music off than he spends on screen in this film.
Get the Gringo just isn’t theatrical material, though after the dreadful box-office misfire The Beaver, Fox is likely taking the appropriate route, beaming it into people’s homes and skipping the cinema altogether. As a direct-to-video/at-home watch this is perfect, mindless fodder for a late night, but that’s where it ends.