Friday, 9 March 2018

Review: Gringo

Cert: 15 / 110 mins / Dir. Nash Edgerton / Trailer

Gringo is the new all-star-vehicle from STX and Amazon Studios, the vast majority of whose budget appears to have gone on casting David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Joel Edgerton and Sharlto Copley for pivotal roles in the movie, and apparently leaving enough in the marketing pot that I watched it on its opening day in the company of four other people.

Oyelowo stars as Harold Soyinka, an admin-exec for a US pharmaceutical company which specialises in medical marijuana and a shady means of manufacturing it. When abrasive CEOs Richard (Edgerton) and Elaine (Theron) unexpectedly accompany Harold on a routine trip to their Mexican processing plant, malevolent forces and sheer bad luck conspire to blow the wheels off the latter's life. Stranded south of the border, our hero decides to take matters into his own hands...

I distinctly remember the first time I saw the trailer for this and thinking 'well, that looks... loud'. I may have harrumphed and eye-rolled my way through the awards season, but I'm pleased to report that my instincts remain on-target. As entertaining as it often is, Gringo is an erratic, undisciplined mess.

The main (or at least, recurring) problem is that the film feels like it has no idea what it wants to be. Touted as a black-comedy, there are certainly laugh-out-loud moments in there but they're not consistent enough to be a feature. Anthony Tambakis and and Matthew Stone's screenplay is too cynical to wear the badge of a comedy, but too flippant to be a thriller. With the disparate threads of supporting characters and their associated sub-plots, this feels like the intention was to make a sharp, sassy romp, reminiscent of Guy Ritchie's early gangster-oeuvre. If only.

Much of the scene-pacing feels improvised and ultimately there just aren't enough likeable characters to drive the whole thing forward. Oyelowo is as much fun as Nash Edgerton's direction will allow, while Theron and Copley are on their usual solid form, but playing thoroughly unsympathetic roles. Joel Edgerton never quite gets to grips with the corporate monster he's meant to be, while Thandie Newton and Amanda Seyfried just simper away in the background. As-and -when we get to Carlos Corona's 'Black Panther' (not that one) and his Mexican drug-empire, the actual central plot device seems like an afterthought, full of autopilot tropes and lazy stereotyping.

Gringo is distracting fun, but its sporadic successes feel far more like accident than design. It sort of works but could be so much better, especially with this cast…

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Layer Cake, War On Everyone.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
If you've got a subscription-type card, voucher or 2-for-1 deal, sure.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Definitely stream, maybe buy when it comes down to under a fiver.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Strong game, this film's got Agent Kallus, Val and Owen Lars in it.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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