Aussie cinema has been ramping up over the last dozen years, but the country’s films haven’t quite broken into the American mainstream yet. While Nash Edgerton’s gritty dark comedy ‘Gringo’ doesn’t quite reach the level of greatness, it’s nice to see it get a wide release on this side of the Pacific.
If you haven’t seen Nash Edgerton’s short films ‘Spider’ or ‘Bear’, you’re missing out. Each is dark and uncomfortable, leading up to a punchline you’ll never forget. Unfortunately, ‘Gringo’ falls short of that potential. Although the directing and casting work well, it’s pretty obvious that the production script could have used another draft or two.
‘Gringo’ feels like a Mexico-set version of ‘Snatch’ that’s missing the badass punches and surprise left hook that Guy Ritchie hit us with. The story revolves around a good-hearted average joe named Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) who loses everything in a single day. His distant wife (Thandie Newton) pays more attention and respect to their dog than to him. His boss (Joel Edgerton, the director’s brother), who’s also one of his oldest friends, is two-faced and untrustworthy. Worst of all, the people he leads at his company’s Mexico facility have something up their sleeves that could bury him. Literally.
When Harold accompanies his boss and the company’s co-owner (Charlize Theron) for a site visit in Mexico, la mierda hits the fan. Having been an honest person and made good decisions his entire life, Harold takes things into his own hands and opens a can of worms that reels in a first-time drug mule and his naïve girlfriend (Amanda Seyfried), two jackass locals looking to score easy money from the simple American, an unstable reformed mercenary (Sharlto Copley), los federales, and the murderous head of a cartel known as “Black Panther.” One moment of weakness sets into motion a twisted set of scenarios that cannot end well for any parties.
When I think of ‘Snatch’, the first thing that comes to mind is the big final-act boxing match reveal with Brad Pitt’s character. The twist that comes is so simple and sensible for the character that it’s almost baffling that it came as a surprise at all. Thanks to music (I’m not a huge Oasis fan, but that guitar riff-driven song is excellent), editing and the giant middle finger to ruthless characters, it’s a hugely satisfying cinematic moment.
‘Gringo’ attempts to something similar. The film tries its hardest and I commend it for that, but the force of its final punch is not even close to being strong enough to leave viewers swooning. I truly would have loved to see it get there, but its crescendo and the story leading up to that point just aren’t good enough. With another couple passes on the screenplay, the movie could have been unforgettable. Even though I love the Edgertons, Theron in disgusting roles, and Oyelowo’s inherently good character, ‘Gringo’ is pretty forgettable.