Say what you will about Mel Gibson's personality, but the man can make a solid movie, both in front of and behind the camera. Get the Gringo, released by Gibson's own Icon Productions, may have been poisoned by Gibson's latest foray into sexism and bigotry, as it failed to receive a wide theatrical release in the United States. That's too bad, because Get the Gringo is solid entertainment, and resurrects the tough, no-nonsense Gibson of Payback and Lethal Weapon as a bank robber who finds himself in a colorful Mexican communal prison. Adrian Grunberg, the first assistant director on Gibson's Apocalypto and Edge of Darkness, directs, and Gibson again proves forgiveness may be only a decent movie away.
Get the Gringo begins as Gibson's titular gringo, credited only as "The Driver," leads a trail of pursuing police cars near the U.S./Mexico border. A badly injured clown is in the backseat coughing up blood on a pile of money, and Gibson admits he has made a few mistakes in stealing said money. Gibson launches the vehicle across the border, and Mexican authorities take him into custody after finding the stolen cash. Gibson ends up in El Pueblito, a sprawling Tijuana prison that is more like a city than a detention center. Prisoners and their families live without shackles and go about their lives much as they would outside the prison walls. Gangster Frank (Peter Stormare) wants his stolen money back, and Gibson realizes he must climb the power ladder to reclaim his spoils from the corrupt cops who took it. He cases prison godfather Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), who runs the joint from a luxury penthouse complete with a hot tub, gourmet kitchen and LCD televisions. With the assistance of the Kid (Kevin Hernandez), the street-wise son of two drug dealers, Gibson vows to take down Javi and get back his cash.
Gibson excels when he gets to be a bit prickly. Here, he plays a gritty, profane thief who is no stranger to the clink. The addition of the Kid is a nice touch, and Hernandez, of The Sitter, matches Gibson jab for jab. The Kid constantly hounds Gibson for a cigarette, and reveals that smoking is not his only death sentence. Javi keeps the Kid under his protection because the Kid will eventually be forced to donate his liver to Javi, whose vices constantly eat away at his body. If there's a constant among Gibson's films, it's that you do not fuck with Gibson's family. The Kid becomes like family, and Gibson decides he can help the Kid and get his money back if all goes well.
Get the Gringo is not complex entertainment, although the plot gets a bit convoluted, and Gibson works the film into a gleefully blunt actioner. The gangsters are bad because the film says so, and the film is infused with darkly comedic violence. The city-like prison is a unique setting, and Gibson maneuvers its alleyways with ease, pilfering money and supplies and unsuccessfully pursuing the Kid's sympathetic mother (Dolores Heredia). Gibson is likeable here, plain and simple, and carries the film with ease. Get the Gringo is absolutely worthy of a theatrical release, and should find new life on Blu-ray.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is slick and detailed, with high-contrast highlights to support the Mexican landscape. Shot digitally on the Red One camera system, Get the Gringo is bright and clear, with nicely textured scenes and great depth of field. There's a bit of softness and some smearing during pans, common to digital photography, but black levels are deep and skin tones are naturally tanned. Aliasing is sparse, and Get the Gringo looks excellent overall.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is explosive and immersive. Gunfire, car chases, explosions and a prison riot all envelop the viewer thanks to the track's heavy use of the surrounds. Dialogue is clear and audible, and the track has some great dialogue pans. The music is deep and resonant, and the subwoofer comes to life frequently to back up the action. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
Fox brings Get the Gringo to Blu-ray in "combo pack" format. The set includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy of the film and an iTunes-compatible digital copy. The discs are housed in a Blu-ray eco-case, which is wrapped in a nicely textured slipcover that replicates the front artwork.
Extras include Get the Gringo: A Look Inside (18:01/HD), a nice making-of in which cast and crew interviewers are mixed with behind-the-scenes footage. Gibson reveals that he came up with the idea for the film over dinner with his children and some friends, and the crew talks about working in a recently closed Mexican prison. Up next are several short featurettes spotlighting the production of memorable scenes: On Set: The Car Chase (3:38/HD); On Set: The Showdown (4:10/HD); and On Set: The Raid (3:44/HD). Finally, you get the "El Corrido del Gringo" Music Video (2:58/HD).
Get the Gringo's own star, Mel Gibson, may be responsible for the film's unceremonious dumping onto Blu-ray. No matter, as fans of Gibson's action films should enjoy Get the Gringo, in which Gibson plays a bank robber trapped in a Mexican communal prison while trying to get back his stolen money from corrupt cops and criminals. Bullets, gangsters and wisecracking - Gibson's forte - are in high supply. Recommended.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.