Get The Gringo (2012)

There’s something about late 80s, early 90s action thriller films that current times are missing. We are extremely focused on special effects, wide angles action, and turning everything into a comic book version of grittiness. I’m not complaining on the shift, but the move by many to imitate the style of Burton, or Nolan in terms of dark, crushed shadows, and psychological pasts of characters only seems to ruin their uniqueness from what we, as audiences, are used to – fun and clever films.

Get the Gringo (a.k.a How I Spent My Summer Vacation), is a nice refresher from all that business model “make films that are similar to current successful films for profit, and profit only”. We don’t tend to see a good western, or gritty cop film nowadays, because everything is carefully constructed.

Technology is apart of our lives so much that robberies in film now occur online, wiring millions and billions of dollars into an offshore account. And unless it’s a remake of a film or set before ATMs and the internet, we may actually never see another robber enter a bank and use bags to steal money (yes, with the dollar signs printed on them).

So for the first time in quite a while, I was glad for Get the Gringo to return to filmmaking (flaws and all) when it was once an art, not a copycat industry.

The film itself was cleverly written, punchy, and quite funny. The script knew when to joke, how far to go, and when to stop. There were no awkward moments of overkill, and there were very few moments of under developed scenes.

Yet, this is by no means an eye-popping film. The controversy surrounding Gibson’s life littered all over the internet, may have tarnished this film’s deserved release. However, while I was watching this film Gibson reflected his intent to return to his passion of film. At first, I was surprised with “Mel’s still go it”, before it dawned on me that the film only received a video on demand (VOD) and internet release, before going to DVD – something I think should’ve been reconsidered. I am fortunate enough to say in Australia we do get a theatrical release, but how our cinemas are going I don’t expect the running to be long – but that’s another story.

I will mention the two things that made this film flawed, and that was character development, and overuse of voice over.

There were moments where many people (audience) were confused who the current character was, or where they were in the scheme of The Gringo’s intricate plan. Development of “pointless” characters could have been cut, and used to establish the latter characters earlier on.

My main concern came to the identification of Frank (Peter Stormare), his lawyer (Scott Cohen), and Mr. Kauffman (Bob Gunton), and their scene in Kauffman’s office. Why Kauffman’s office, and why Kauffman anyway, and why Clint Eastwood? It was all a little distracting not knowing the details, and never being told. Mind you, seeing Kauffman exit after the explosion was comforting knowing who was what. It could’ve been fleshed out a little longer.

Now the voice over. Never assume audience stupidity. Remarks of “he looks dangerous” after having images of a gun flashed up on screen are wasteful. Cinema is one part visual and one part sound. You can use them together, and you get an excellent piece of story. Or you can use them individually, and let the audience conceptualise their own mini story. And in that, you have amplified your own intent ten fold, through imagination. Sometimes, its more powerful to not be explicit in every shot, and let the audience interact a little with the story.

Yet, while these were a minor set backs, the film still showed promise to the storyline, and all the action which was to follow. You’ll notice in current action films that all the action is explosive, and not built up to the final battle. Get the Gringo fortunately does not follow current trends. Each action scene expands inch by inch, until the final shootout, knowing how to treat an audience’s emotion without making them distracted and detached from the cinematic experience.

As I mentioned, the film is gritty, and by all means it wants to be. But the sordid feel isn’t cringe worthy, but rather the essence of the film. We tend to refer to the setting as being a “character” in films lately, and for the most part its garbage talk, here though, this is an environment of extreme corruptness. The work of the cinematography is the power of this, and is something definitely worth looking at when you view it.

Gibson runs the film – there’s no doubt about that. But unlike Jodi Foster’s The Beaver, Mel returns to his forte of thriller action – something nobody should question. He is back as that guy who lives with the scum of world, with no identifiable past, and in a society of corrupt politics. It’s his element, and the aura he emits in these scenes never becomes unrealistic, or boring.

For a man who was deemed a risk to studios, he has proven himself. And if only this film’s release was granted the exposure it merits, maybe people would be more forgiving – I know I am.