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Every so often there will be a dark comedy/action film that pops up into the cinematic landscape that garners a wide variety of interest from recognizable actors. I guess the roots of it could go back to It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World but I sort of remember it with darker fare like 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag or Go. Films with a close to or flat out above the title name, followed by some well-respected or recognizable names.
Which brings us to Gringo. Written by Anthony Tambakis (Warrior) and Matthew Stone (Big Trouble) and directed by Nash Edgerton (The Square) the gringo I guess is technically not one? The African born Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo, Selma) works for a pharmaceutical company who is part of a merger with a group in Mexico. He is sent by Richard (Joel Edgerton, Loving) and Elaine (Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde) to seal the deal, as his marriage to Bonnie (Thandie Newton, RocknRolla) is crumbling financially and emotionally, and the last thing he needs is to be kidnapped in Mexico. So guess what happens next????
With a movie like Gringo, the story throws a lot of things at you, so in a way you're almost forced to pick one; do you want Harold to come back from Mexico alive? Do you want his captor, a mercenary named Mitch (Sharlto Copley, Hardcore Henry) to work with Harold or kill him for the money? Do you want Sunny (Amanda Seyfried, Dear John) , a young sort of naïve girl to make it away from her boyfriend Miles (Harry Treadaway, The Lone Ranger) and his sketchy kind of drug deal? You can't like Richard or Elaine because they're kind of scummy though.
Actually, you can, and Theron chews on every piece of furniture in the room dishing out loads of insults to anyone remotely worthy of a shot, and there's a venom that has an underlying sexuality to them that kind of makes her a little bit of a bureaucratic dominatrix. Her daring of Jerry (Alan Ruck, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) to pull it out, cut through the nonsense and put out or shut up is visceral, a mix of what I mentioned above, with a little dusting of comedy behind them. It's not entirely sure what everyone else is doing in the film, but Theron is trying some things and they work.
Sadly, Theron doesn't take up much of the time, the closest thing to a character carrying Gringo is Harold, and Oyelowo has some moments though they pale in comparison to anything Theron is doing. He plays the downtrodden guy well, and his scenes with Copley and Seyfried exhibit some vulnerability, some comic timing, and some emotion that are fun for the dynamics and marks should be given for their creativity.
It would be one thing if the creative forces pushing Gringo down the road had some cognizant feel for the material, because if you're gonna eschew the story for the sake of the onscreen moments, either go all in or don't. And they do go in, but the moments aren't that good, and they don't seem to be as keyed in on that last part, so it becomes a funny and sometimes strange journey. It would be one thing if they paid a little more attention to the story but there is more catering to fun moments (or less noticing that the primary story lacked the wheels to carry the thing) than making sure you stayed involved in it. I wasn't, and found myself watching a mess by the end of it.The Blu-ray:
Universal's 2.40:1 high-definition presentation of Gringo uses the AVC encode and looks fine, though it lacks any jaw droppers. The film juggles the differences in the Chicago and Mexico color palettes well, and the action that occurs in the evenings has some strong black levels, but for whatever reason those in the drug boss' office tend to come across a little on the soft side. Colors are natural though lack a vivid consistency, and flesh tones are faithful to those inhabiting them. It's a firm good transfer, not a great one.The Sound:
DTS-HD 5.1 lossless that's pretty good, starting early as Harold sings Will Smith's "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" while stuck in traffic, and the bass is pumping a good amount. There's a kind of amazing cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" that sounds clear and just as dynamic, and when it comes to non-song moments, the gunfire possesses low end oomph, just as the explosions or car crashes, such as in a third act chase that results in one. Dialogue is clear as a bell and consistent as well, and proves to be a better sonic experience than expected.The Extras:
For better or worse not a lot comes with the feature. "Who is Harold?" (1:58) features the cast sharing their thoughts on the character, while "The Stunts of Gringo" (3:48) looks at just that, and Edgerton (the director) and his approach to filming them. "Filming Gringo in Mexico" (3:45) flirts with being an advertisement sometimes but is OK, and "The Making of Gringo" (4:18) includes the usual components of an EPK in a humdrum piece.Final Thoughts:
Some portions of the ensemble notwithstanding, Gringo seems to be content with letting their big names play with one another rather than telling a story of notable entertainment, and while the components for a story exist, they get muddled and convolution to the point of confusion. It sounds better than it looks (but both are good), and the extras are wholly average, though I would have liked to see a commentary track with Los Hermanos Edgerton. Either way, it's summer movie season, there are better things to watch at the moment than this thing.