Is Mel back?
As we all know, he never left. He was just in the spotlight for a much different reason. This film will make you forget how utterly insane Mel Gibson may be. It will remind you of the Mel before the court appearances and voice mail messages. The man who had the ability to add a lovable touch to brutal action. It is easy to see that his face has become as weathered as his past has become checkered. However, his role as “Driver” displays plenty of that forgotten charisma.
When I first became aware of the film’s title change (it was originally called “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”), I was, to say the least, concerned that Mel was feeding himself to the wolves who already think he’s anti-Semetic, misogynistic, homophobic, and racist, and look, he’s said much (both sober and drunk) to back those claims up. I mean, really Mel? “Get the Gringo?” Way to lose the support of Mexican-Americans. But watching the film unfold, I get the change, even though I still think the original title would have worked.
In many ways, “Get the Gringo” is unlike any film Mel has ever made, although comparisons to 1999’s “Payback” aren’t unwarranted. Yes, it’s brutally violent and darkly comic, which are traits in a lot of Gibson films, but there’s an energy and tone in this movie that feels less like the “Lethal Weapon” movies (or even the “Mad Max” trilogy) and more like a B-movie exploitation film, especially the ones envisioned by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez for their grindhouse projects. (Note to Mel: If Rodriguez offers you that cameo in “Machete Kills,” take it. He and Tarantino are your best hopes at reminding audiences what you’re capable of at this point.)
The film starts off with Gibson’s character, known only as Driver in the credits, in a car chase along the US/Mexico border with the cops. His partner and he, both in clown masks, have bags of money in the back; the partner is shot, and bleeding on the money, something that’s irritating Mad Mel as he crashes through the border wall, where Federalis are waiting for him. When they see the money, the Mexican cops claim jurisdiction over the arrest, and they take Gibson’s character to a Mexican prison, bury his now-dead partner, and keep the money for themselves. Gibson doesn’t end up in just any prison, though; the inmates here have set up quite a living for themselves. In fact, except for the armed guards along the walls, there really aren’t many differences to the outside world. Not long after his stay begins, Gibson meets up with a boy (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia) who may provide a key for him getting out, and getting his money back, provided he can play his cards right.
As he did with “The Passion of the Christ” and “Apocalypto,” actor/producer/screenwriter Gibson is showing us a way of life and civilization that we’ve never really seen before, or at least, is showing it to us in a way we’ve never really seen. Apparently, Gibson became fascinated with the lifestyles within certain Mexican prisons, and if there’s any truth to the world Gibson and co-screenwriters Adrian Grunberg (who also directs “Gringo” after being Gibson’s 1st AD on “Apocalypto”) and Stacy Perskie create, then maybe a little vacation in a Mexican prison wouldn’t be too bad after all. I am kidding. I wouldn’t last fifteen minutes.
The trust Gibson puts in Grunberg to direct the film is well-earned. He has a lot of resources here, especially his Oscar-winning star to feed off of. He handles the mayhem of this exploitation madness well. It helps that he has a star who, even before his career began spiraling out of control, is capable of channeling that madness into a charming, well-tuned performance. It’s been a long time since Gibson has been this loose on-screen, and it’s proof that, if audiences are ever ready to forgive him his trespasses, they’ll find that Mel Gibson is just as endearing a performer as he’s ever been
Special features include:
Get the Gringo: A look inside.
“El Corrido del Gringo” Music video. Which, I did not watch.
On Set: The Car Chase
On Set: The Showdown
On Set: The Raid.