(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 2 December, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/melsican-soap-opera)
Cast: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Dolores Heredia
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Rating: 2.5 stars
So, get this. Mel Gibson, he of the tags ‘homophobe’, ‘anti-Semite’, ‘racist’, and ‘wife beater’, he of Mad Max, Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ, and Apocalypto fame, went and made a movie with an estimated budget of $20 million. And it didn’t release in American theatres, going straight to DirecTV. And, it’s based in a Mexican prison – yes, Mexicans, the same people he got into truckloads of trouble for referring to as “wetbacks”.
It took me more than half of this 96-minute film to figure out whether it was spoof or not. And I’m not quite sure even now. What on earth do you make of a movie that begins with two clowns being chased by a joint patrol of American and Mexican Border Police? When guitar riffs, mariachi and pasodoble provide the background score to lines like, “You’re corrupt and we’re corrupt...only, we’re honest about it.”
Gibson, playing a man identified at different points as Bozo, Dick Johnson, and Reginald T Barnes, seems to take tremendous delight in wordplay as banal as, “Since I didn’t have any cash, they were forced to charge me” and “This gives a whole new meaning to hardtime.” He spends the rest of the film running clumsily, swearing, speaking Spanish, killing people, and making his eyeballs roll wildly.
This is what we gather of the plot – Gibson and another clown are making for the Mexican border with cash they’ve stolen from a rich sleaze. The sleaze has two cowboys in his employ, to torture anyone who crosses him. After a squabble over jurisdiction, Gibson is convicted and sent to a bizarre Mexican prison, where he’s bemused by the presence of guns, drugs, hookers, tattoo artists, entertainment, beggars, blood-testers, environmentalists and organ mafia. Apparently, you get shot if you try to leave. But inside the prison, you can live as free and luxurious a life as regular trailer trash. You’re best off having no identification – or fingerprints.
The dialogue mostly comprises epithets that derive from body parts or carnal acts. It’s also mostly in Spanish. There’s a lot of gruesome cutting, sluicing, torture and shooting. There’s a supersmart kid (Kevin Hernandez) who smokes like a chimney and wants his single mama to find, umm, fulfilment. The highlight of the film is a crazy climax involving Clint Eastwood.
The Verdict: A film that gives the impression of being shot when the entire cast and crew were stoned, Get the Gringo is inexplicably entertaining. If you have the time, it’s worth a watch.