Writers:Mel Gibson, Adrian Grunberg, & Stacy Perskie
Starring:Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Kevin Hernandez, Dolores Heredia
What do you do with a Post-Sugar-Tits Mel Gibson?
I mean the man is extremely talented both in front of and behind the camera; that's something that really can't be denied, despite what one might think of the ideologies that push his creative process. However, when religion and politics give way to abhorrent outbursts of racism and sexism, it can't just be overlooked as a Right vs. Left argument. And Gibson's abhorrent beliefs have been all over the news from his 2006 DUI arrest to the violently racist remarks toward the mother of his most recent child
These public (and not-so-public) meltdowns have led to something of a collapse of Gibson's career over the past six years. Some may argue that it's more about those conservative politics, but the anti-Semitism and vulgar verbal abuse make that argument irrelevant.
While he hasn't directed a film since 2006'sApocalypto, Gibson has also taken a break from acting, staying as far out of the limelight as his occasional outbursts will allow. But beginning in 2010, he returned to acting in Martin Campbell'sEdge of Darknessand followed that up with Jodie Foster'sThe Beaverin 2011. Neither film garnered fantastic reviews, and both collapsed at the box office, despite Gibson's embracing of characters who seemed designed to help rehabilitate his public image without whitewashing him.
At the same time, however, Gibson began Googling "Mexican Prisons" (for some reason) and had an idea. He then teamed up with Adrian Grunberg and Stacy Perskie, both of whom had worked with him onApocalypto, and over a series of casual meetings worked out the script forGet the Gringo(orHow I Spent My Summer Vacation, as it was called in the UK). The film began with limited screenings in March of 2012, and was then released exclusively on DirectTV on May 1, before releasing on other VOD services. Finally, on July 17, 2012 the Blu-ray hit the market to very limited fanfare.
The story is fairly simple and Gibson's character "The Driver" is another classic Mel Gibson role, the seriously flawed, but somehow loveable guy who can kick all kinds of ass, but the combination works this time despite what you might think of him as a person. Instead of the obvious "Father Avenging His Child" ofEdge of Darkness, or the obvious "I've Got Serious Mental Issues" ofThe Beaver, here Mel is just a son of a bitch paying his dues who befriends a mother and child. There are no apologies and no attempts to make Gibson look forgivable.
It's a straight-up action flick that has more in common with that director's cut ofPaybackthan with anything else the man has done in ten years. And as such, it's the most satisfying film Gibson has made in nearly as long.
So what do you do with a Post-Sugar-Tits Mel Gibson?
Do you sit back and enjoy the new work – because despite what we might think of the man personally, his work is always pure gold and driven – or do you let the man he is interfere with your enjoyment?
For me personally, I let the movie do the talking and found it to be refreshing, exciting, brutal, and unapologetic. It was surprisingly funny at times, too. What really brings it all home is the fact that all of the actors involved do exceptional work, particularly Kevin Hernandez as The Kid. He's a twelve year old playing a ten year old and holds his own with Gibson in every scene they share.
First time director is something of a misnomer for Adrian Grunberg. He's been in the business for almost fifteen years working as assistant director and second unit director for television and film in Mexico and for Mexico shoots like forMan on Fire,Legend of Zorro, andJarhead. He and Gibson met when he worked as first assistant director onApocalyptoand then worked together again onEdge of Darkness.
His work has some flare, but he doesn't push things too far, never letting style interfere with the storytelling.Get the Gringoends up being a film that would have been just as at home in the Seventies as it would if it had been released during the Nineties Post-Tarantino boom. Being released today, it stands out as a solid sort-of-noir, but there's not a lot of press for films like this at the moment.
Regardless, if you can supplant Mel Gibson-the-man for Mel Gibson-the-actor for the 96 minutes this film runs, and you like the career criminal capers of characters like Richard Stark'sParker, this might be something you should check out.
Get the Gringo – A Look Inside (18:01):This is a pretty nice look at the making of the film featuring interviews with Gibson, Grunberg, and Perskie. They discuss coming up with the ideas and putting the script together, as well as giving us a look into the actual production in a real decommissioned Mexican prison.
On Set – The Car Chase (3:38), On Set – The Showdown (4:10), On Set – The Raid (3:44):These three short featurettes give you a look at the behind the scenes of each of these set piece scenes, but there's not really anything other than roving camerawork. There's no discussion of the process or extra insight. More like being a fly on the wall than anything.
"El Corrido del Gringo" Music Video (2:58):If you like Mariachi music, this isn't too bad. Catchy.