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July 17, 2012

On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Get the Gringo (2012)

by NIR SHALEV

Mel Gibson plays an unnamed getaway driver (billed as Driver). He’s racing toward the Mexican/American fence with a squad of police cars following closely behind. In the back seat of the car sits a man dressed as a clown, who’s bleeding all over the money. Driver jumps the car through the fence and immediately becomes the property of the Mexican police. The backseat clown is DOA. Their money (supposedly $2 million) is confiscated by the crooked Mexican officials and Driver is sent to a prison called El Pueblito.

El Pueblito is a character all its own and as a result it’s the most fascinating character in the film. Based on a real prison that ultimately failed, El Pueblito is, basically a very small town. To quote Driver, “Is this a prison or the world’s crappiest mall?” There aren’t any jail cells and everyone is free to roam around and do as they please. Prisoners’ families live within the confines of the prison, in special housing. There are also conjugal visit tents, food stalls, drug stalls (mostly heroine), beer and pop drinks, and tattoo parlors. Everything can be bought in El Pueblito, and just as easily everything can be sold. The reason that the actual prison failed is because in exchange for freedom within the prison, the prison simply became a small town and the idea of rehabilitation went out the window.

Driver is not a good person but he’s a much better and far more likable character than everyone else in El Pueblito. He steals, cheats, cons, and kills but we like him because he not only narrates the film (his narration is equal parts informative and funny), he is also the audience’s eyes and ears. By the end we’re rooting for Driver to win. Again, he’s not a good person but likability is key, and Gibson wrote and acted that character with great conviction.

What transpires throughout the film is a snowball effect that starts just because he’s arrived there, but at the same time we simply follow him around and experience the prison first hand. The main plot turns out to be the one involving an adorable 10-year old kid (Kevin Hernandez), his ex-drug runner mother (Dolores Heredia), and their relationship to the men that run the prison. But Driver’s background, the confiscated $2 million, a couple Americans that go around torturing and murdering people to get to that money, and another crooked American that works at the consulate eventually appear on the story’s radar too.

The film is never hard to follow because Mel Gibson produced and co-wrote it. And if there’s one thing that we can ascertain from Gibson’s background as an actor, director, producer, and writer it’s that he’s greatly adept at excellent story structure. Braveheart (1995) and Apocalypto (2006) are just two other great examples of his ability to tell a story well. Get the Gringo goes for the throat utilizing great tongue-in-cheek humor, bloody violence, and a really awesome third act, It simultaneously tells several stories at the same time, never confuses them, and delivers closure to every story aspect that was started.

Gibson also delivers a good performance here, one reminiscent of his character from Payback. As Driver, he plays the criminal/con man with great confidence and knows when to (sort of) look at the camera in order to wink at the audience during moments when Driver is acting. As a result, we understand when he’s actually scared and when he’s just pretending. That nuance in Gibson’s performance is repeated several times and works each and every time.

Lastly, this film is some kind of awesome. There’s a daytime shootout in the main streets of the prison that’s shot in slow motion, and is reminiscent of Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch (1969), and there’s an organ transplant that takes place during a nighttime raid. There is a terrific amount of coolness to the overall film, as everything is eventually explained (to one degree or another) and also, all of the performances either are really good or great.

I’ve watched Get the Gringo twice and will definitely be watching it again in the near future. It’s a lot of fun; most of what’s shown and the happenings that transpire are awesome; and, most importantly Mel Gibson is back and with a big bang. I don’t care who he is in the real world as long as he continues to deliver terrific films like this one.

The disc special features include Get the Gringo: a Look Inside; “El Corrido del Gringo” music video; and three on-set featurettes.

Other new releases this week: 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Casa de Mi Padre, Friends with Kids, Lockout, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Last week’s releases: American Reunion, Being Flynn, The Flowers of War, Margaret, Senna, The Three Stooges

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