(Published in City Express, The New Indian Express, on 1 December, 2012)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Dolores Heredia, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Jesús Ochoa
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Rating: 2.5 stars
This is my theory – at some point in his descent into the tabloids, Mel Gibson decided to take some time off, and watch every movie Rajnikanth has ever done. Then, he wrote a script that tried to fit them all into Payback, scraped together $20 million, rented a clown costume, struck a deal with a misguided Mexican tourism ministry, and shot Get the Gringo.
The opening line in the narration tells us this is a film that will try too hard: “Well, hello, boys and girls. There’s nothing worse than a sad clown. Except a clown bleeding internally, and coughing blood all over your money.” Excuse me for a minute while I stop my eyes from rolling. Some rock music and crazy chasing later, the film has actually begun. And, as soon as we discover the “Driver” is Mel Gibson, we begin to wonder what he’s doing in a film that looks and feels like this.
I’m not certain whether the film was trying to be surreal, but it plays out as an unhealthy mix of fantasy and cliché. First up, we’re shown an unbelievably open nexus between the cops and mafia in Mexican prisons. We got to a facility called El Pueblito – The Village – where life mimics any small town. Except, you’ll be shot if you try to jump the fence. So, small border town. Corruption is rampant, and someone’s making money from selling everything from drugs to conjugal visits. Our ingenious Driver figures, “Someone was running this place, and it wasn’t the warden.”
Here’s the only realistic part – Gibson figures the best a crazy-eyed, sweaty man who hides his wrinkles in oversized shirts can land is a single mama with an endangered wonderkid. And one so lonely she will love him even if he further endangers the kid. As long as he makes up by denying the ten-year old cigarettes.
The film oscillates between sentiment and spoof, naturally to its detriment. It has its wry moments, and some of the set pieces can pass for good satire, but mostly, it feels regenerated from any badass Hollywood movie. The characters don’t win us over, and we can’t find it in ourselves to give the film the indulgence it begs. Everything happens so quickly it could only be a B-grade film or a parody of B-grade films. The quality of the composition, and the fact that the camera frequently switches from film to digital for no good reason during the climax, suggest it’s the former. The violence is too gross to be funny, and too careless to feel real.
The film reeks of desperation – the puns would be more at home in a movie made by teens for teens than one made by an Academy Award-winner. An impersonation of Clint Eastwood feels so laboured you wonder whether Mel Gibson still qualifies as an A-lister. But, partly because the over-the-top Mexican cast is so good, and partly because those of us who grew up in the Eighties and Nineties will always be curious about a Mel Gibson movie, it succeeds in holding our attention throughout its rather short duration.
The Verdict: This bewildering Mel Gibson offering makes for decent time-pass, especially if you want to put your Spanish to the test.