Released: 9th March 2018
Directed By: Nash Edgerton
Starring: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton
Reviewed By: Van Connor
Of all the worn tropes to have sunk more than a few filmmakers over the years, the Americans-in-a-Mexican-kerfuffle subgenre feels, at times, like it sits next to found footage horror movies on the mythical shelf of “why even bother?”, and, unfortunately for director Nash Edgerton, Gringo is highly unlikely to change that sad reality.
Sporting what could be the most under-utilised cast of the past year (you will honestly forget Amanda Seyfried was in this pretty quickly) and sporting a script best described as a loose association of vowels and consonants between the occasional dick joke, Gringo is charitably described as an uninteresting waste of time, and, despite David Oyelowo’s commanding attempts otherwise, that’s being extremely charitable.
A textbook case of putting the cart before the horse – the horse, in this case, being anything resembling a developed character – Gringo smacks of the kind of passion project brought to life largely through a safe (re. low) budget and the goodwill of name-on-the-poster friends willing to give up a week in the faint chance it all works out. Sadly, any such notion of that becoming a reality are swiftly done away with at the behest of lacklustre writing from scribes Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone, whose unyielding desire to “do a Soderbergh” results less in something Out of Sight, and more something you’d wish had actually been out of sight.
Not a single character is given anything resembling a personality beyond a broad stroke, no plot development moves without the creakiness of “because… reasons” and any semblance of sharpness to be found cuts with all the grace of a pneumatic drill being wielded by someone with a hangover.
That Gringo forgets to include such basics as an establishing shot at any point comes as little surprise given the film itself never actually establishes anything. David Oyelowo’s Nigerian immigrant Howard takes a business trip to Mexico for… reasons, decides to act out on his constantly being screwed over at work by faking his own kidnapping, because his boss (Joel Edgerton, aka. how this got partially funded) is sleeping with his formerly-obese wife (because… hilarious?) whilst he and his co-manager and emotionless sex-puppet Charlize Theron (aka. how the rest of it got funded) sleaze their way to having Howard killed to make the company a profit.
There’s enough raw material in that plot, admittedly, to craft something akin to A Fish Called Wanda. In the hands of Tambakis and Stone, however, the concept instead sleeps with the fishes.