Movie Reviews

Gringo – A Mean-Spirited Mess

If you thought the trailer was outrageous …

Synopsis: An exhilarating mix of dark comedy, white-knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, Gringo joyrides into Mexico, where mild-mannered businessman Harold Soyinka finds himself at the mercy of his back-stabbing business colleagues back home, local drug lords and a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary. Crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal, Harold battles to survive his increasingly dangerous situation in ways that raise the question: Is he out of his depth — or two steps ahead? (VVS Films)

Starring: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, and Joel Edgerton

Writer: Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone

Director: Nash Edgerton

Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 111mins

Trailer: 

For showtimes and more, check out Gringo on movietimes.com.

For as long as there have been stories, there have underdog stories and this film is no different. However, what sets this one apart is that it tries very hard to make us root for its protagonist, a businessman Harold Soyinka (Oleyowo). Harold was a mild-mannered, naive, coward with the film further reinforcing these traits by filling the rest of the film with plenty of despicable, borderline unlikable characters including his bosses, Elaine Markinson (Theron) and Richard Rusk (Edgerton), and his wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton).

Over the course of the story, through a series of ridiculous situations, Harold learns that nice guys finish last. Harold and his naivety will surely be off-putting for some but there is just something about watching him become entrenched in a world that was completely unlike him that was somewhat entertaining. While the story behind him was a mess, Harold was the only constant despite being a mess himself. Because of its messy plot and underdeveloped and caricaturish characters, it felt like the film wasn’t sure what it wanted to be or what point it wanted to make.

A surprising aspect of the film was it’s length, clocking in at nearly 2 hours. This was problematic as the film tried to stretch out its premise much longer that it needed to be. Also because of its length, it is easy to forget about the main story at times as it not only juggles Harold journey while being the butt of most of the film’s jokes, Elaine and Richard’s general despicability, and an other subplot that didn’t go anywhere. The film could have easily edited out 15-20 minutes from the film and told a tighter story.

Besides a few instances with Harold, the film was not funny at all. Instead of relying on Harold, the film relied too much on despicable characters being despicable and mean-spirited for the sake of shock value. This had the opposite effect as it did nothing for the film’s several unlikable characters. The film also featured some action sequences that were occasionally hard to follow being clumsily shot.

The acting was good all around with Oyelowo being the obvious standout. The film forces us to root for Harold which was easy to do thanks to Oyelowo’s likability and not because of the script and direction. They film depicted Harold in such a mean-spirited way that you feel bad for him even if his motivations we’re not always clear. Theron and Edgerton were good as being despicable but that didn’t change the fact that they were despicable.

Overall, this was a mean-spirited mess of a film that was a lot longer than it needed to be. It neither wasn’t sure what it wanted to be nor got whatever point it was trying to make across using several unlikable characters that not even great actors can save. In what was a mostly unfunny film, the lone bright spot was Oyelowo’s comedic performance.

Score: 5/10

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