Released limitedly in theaters as How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Adrian Grunberg’s Get the Gringo (a much better title) is reminiscent of the action comedy-dramas from Mel Gibson’s 1980s period: a movie filled with profanity, violence, and a mad dash of cynical humor. For a star inching close to sixty (and looking every day of it), this kind of south-of-the-border romp is rather like a last hurrah at the frolics of his youth, and those who loved the films then may find this new one just what the doctor ordered, too, but the story despite its Mexican setting seems tired, and even with lots of action and bloodshed, the results are pretty predictable right down the line.
Get the Gringo (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: July 17, 2012
Review Date: July 17, 2012
After absconding with two million dollars in cash, the Player (Mel Gibson – he uses a variety of aliases during the movie but we never learn his actual name) is sent to one of Mexico’s most notorious prisons, El Pueblito, which is run as a self-enclosed town where criminals can carry guns and accommodations can be made more comfortable if one has money. The Player has no problem stealing whatever he needs within this “Mexican mall,” but there doesn’t seem to be any easy way to escape or a way for him to regain the stolen millions. He makes friends with a ten year old boy (Kevin Hernandez) who’s being kept safe by an official (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) who will eventually need the boy’s liver for a transplant since both share a very rare blood type. Through the boy and other contacts, the Player works his deals to be able to get out of prison by agreeing to commit murder, but, of course, he also realizes that once he’s done his job, he’ll be eliminated, too.
The script by Mel Gibson, director Adrian Grunberg, and co-writer Stacy Perskie installs Gibson as the off screen narrator, full of cynical commentary on his motives and predicaments. It’s a very familiar motif, but in a movie featuring such squalid conditions and unsavory people, the brash sarcasm of the character’s point of view is welcome. Welcome, that is, until it stops about a third of the way through the film only to be picked up at the very end. It’s this kind of sloppy stop and start (also seen in montages and slow motion shootouts where continuity seems occasionally off) that marks the tone of much of the movie. The wheeling and dealing that the Player and his youngster/companion (who just happens to have a beautiful widowed mother naturally, played by Dolores Heredia) spends the first half of the movie working are by far the most entertaining parts of the movie. Later when things turn very ugly and there’s wholesale slaughter in the streets, torture is used to get vital information, and other such entertaining gambols seer themselves into our brains, the film becomes rather trying, not quite enlivened by the admittedly amusing (actual) Clint Eastwood impression Gibson pulls off on the telephone or the frantic rescue at the last second plot that’s just too movie-absurd to be believed.
Despite some deeply etched crinkles in his face and a careworn look only infrequently animated by something that makes him laugh, it is basically the same Mel Gibson we’ve seen from the past: the bad good guy smoking like a chimney and tossing off quips in playing a character who has a charmed way of getting all things in life that he wants. Kevin Hernandez is completely natural before the camera and makes a fun partner-in-crime with the star. Dolores Heredia holds her own as the feisty mother who regrettably has no way of preventing the death of her son when his time for the operation eventually comes. Most of the rest of the speaking roles in the film are filled by talented though relatively unknown (here) Mexican actors, but in small cameo parts are Peter Stormare, Scott Cohen, and Bob Gunton.
The film is presented in its original theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Color timing is very hot to emphasize the broiling conditions of the Mexican prison, but the emphasis on yellows and browns makes for a fairly pedestrian overall look. Sharpness sometimes seems off in certain shots, and varying contrast results in sometimes digital-appearing images that look inconsistent with what comes before and after. Black levels are rather dark gray rather than black, too. Subtitles when they are used are in soft white and are easy to read. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix does not exploit its action scenario to maximize the available audio channels. Much of the movie is frontcentric with its music and sound effects though there is occasional activity in the rear channels and an occasional pan through the soundstage (though much more could have been done with this). Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
All of the bonus material is presented in 1080p.
“A Look Inside Get the Gringo” features star/writer Mel Gibson, director/writer Adrian Grunberg, and producer/writer Stacy Perskie discussing various aspects of the four months of shooting (and two years of planning) getting the movie made. They discuss the actual prison setting (which they state is the main character of the film), the casting of the movie with mostly Mexican actors, and show various behind-the-scenes shots of the film’s major set pieces. This runs 18 minutes.
Three behind-the-scenes montages of the movie’s action sequences show the cast and crew at work but contains no narration or explanation of what we’re seeing. The on-set sequences are “Car Chase” which opens the film (3 ¾ minutes), “The Showdown” which has the prison overrun with assassins (4 ¼ minutes), and “The Raid” which is the climax of the movie (3 ¾ minutes). Much of the behind-the-scenes footage in these shorts is also shown in the above featurette.
The music video of “El Corrido del Gringo” which features a mariachi band disparaged by the Player early in the movie runs 3 minutes.
The disc contains promo trailers for Bad Ass, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Act of Valor.
The second disc in the set is the combination DVD/digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions on installation of it on Mac and PC devices.
3/5 (not an average)
Those who have missed the violent action comedies of Mel Gibson can now have another to relish, Get the Gringo. Though there is some amusement in seeing that some of the same performing juices are still flowing, the plot is pretty standard, and the action execution is only adequate.