From personal experience as someone who has written scripts and continues to do so to this day, when you get an idea for something completely original, it is like injecting yourself with adrenaline. The seemingly numberless possibilities on how to develop that initial idea is so entertaining and happy, for a writer, it is a bigger high than anything else. This is also the period where reality kicks in and there are just some ideas that look good on paper but can tell it wouldn’t be the same in practice. To be good as writing is to know when to abandon parts of the story and it’s sad to say that Gringo is one of those films where it doesn’t know when to stop.
Before seeing this film, I had gotten mixed messages about what the film’s genre was. Some said it was a dark comedy/action film, some said a stoner film, and some said a crime drama. In all honesty I’m still trying to answer this question, the best explanation I can come up with is it is all of these rolled into one. In fact, that is a very good first impressions review, Gringo feels as though it had all these different directions in terms of narrative, performance wise etc. and instead of choosing the best suited, it ran with all of them for the off-chance that one of them worked.
Luckily, some of these ideas did work for Gringo, with the most impressive being the massive presence of its cast. David Oyelowo is our protagonist Harold who is built-in the film to be the nice guy character and you get a feeling for that because of Oyelowo’s natural likeability. And while at times his performance ranges from subtle to over the top comedic charisma like that of Eddie Murphy, he manages to embody the righteousness nature of Harold which gives some sort of comfort for the audience when he goes to the extremes.
Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron play Harold’s bosses Richard and Elaine who are the embodiment of corporate arrogance. Throughout the film they take advantage off and talk behind the back of Harold. The film makes the point that good guys in this world get nothing in return while the horrible people get everything. While the film tries to rectify this injustice, it never really sees it through which a shame is because sticking to this injustice would have possibly made for a more pleasant comedic experience and one with morality.
What causes Gringo to be all over the place is the writing which is quite frankly embarrassing. Where to begin? First, there are sub-plots that feel as though they should have been introduced way sooner. For instance, Harold gets kidnapped by the Mexican cartel after already faking his own kidnapping. If I remember correctly, the way this film was marketed was that this would be the big dilemma for the characters, yet audiences will have to wait almost half of the films run-time just to reach that point. There are characters who disappear for a long time but pop up every now and then just as a reminder they’re still here like Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) and Miles (Harry Treadaway), a couple who reason for being in the film will still have you scratching your heads. Co-writers Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone deliver this script of such poor quality It wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if they accidentally, or even purposefully, wrote a first draft and submitted it as a finished piece of writing.
There are surprisingly very little drugs in this film which was odd because I was led to believe that Gringo centered around this new marijuana pill. I would say I was mistaken but have a look at the trailer for Gringo after reading this review, there is clearly a lot of emphasis on drug trade. So not only is the film badly written but it is also vastly mismarketed, making the audience question the actual film to what was advertised to them.
This is only Nash Edgeton’s second attempt at a feature film and fairness to him, thanks to a great cast he had the tools to make this a likeable film, but the confusion surrounding what type of humour this film is trying to be makes Gringo a chore to watch. You would have to be someone who enjoys the kind of stories that pops in and out of the narrative to find the humour in Gringo. It’s even more tragic when the Mexican cartel decided to show up. Gringo presents the cartel too seriously for a comedy/action film, the way I viewed them was teetering on the gritty thriller type. The fact the film contains blood, torture and supposedly intense car chases only cements this further.
This is the classic case of putting all your eggs into one basket. In brutal honesty, the way that Gringo keeps switching from one thing to another should have given the incentive to go back to the drawing board on this one. The writing is terrible, the performances aren’t something to be attracted to even if you enjoy the previous work of the cast and at times the dialogue that is used to establish relationships between characters are painful. There must have been a point where people could see that this film wasn’t going in the intended direction or they were too scared to say so. Whatever the case, Gringo will stay a conundrum.
Final Result: 2/10 – Very Poor
Have you seen Gringo? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Peter Rabbit