A mild-mannered, hapless and naïve businessman named Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) ends up in a life-threatening situation thanks to his ill-placed trust in boss slash bestie Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton). Harold and Richard work for a pharmaceuticals company that produces a ‘weed pill’, but events are in motion behind-the-scenes which only Harold and business partner Elaine (Charlize Theron) are privy to. When the three of them travel to Mexico, Harold realises that something is up. Before he can find out the truth though, various unfortunate events see him passed from captor to captor as he desperately searches for allies and fights for his life.
Despite an able cast which includes the likes of David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Alan Ruck and Sharlto Copley, Gringo is essentially a car crash of a movie. It’s one of Nash Edgerton’s (the brother of actor Joel Edgerton) first feature-length films and his inexperience is tangible as one gets the sense that this is a copy of a copy of a movie.
Gringo tries to be sharp, smart and funny, but other than provoking the occasional chuckle, falls flat for the majority of its prolonged 110 minute running-length. The aforementioned cast do their best with the script they’ve been handed but direction-wise, the film lacks a clear vision. It struggles to find a sense of rhythm and is confused about its sense of humour. Moreover, some of its characters – such as those played by Newton and Seyfried – and storylines feel utterly pointless.
The writers behind Gringo are Anthony Tambakis (Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) and Matthew Stone, whose lacklustre filmography includes Tommy Lee Jones starrer Man of the House and Soul Men (his last credit, which is from ten years ago). Stone was also the writer of Intolerable Cruelty, which may explain the Coen brothers influence clearly present in Gringo, but as we know, Intolerable Cruelty wasn’t a great movie, and neither is Gringo.
Nash Edgerton’s background in stunt work can be seen in the movie’s shootouts and car chases, but there’s not enough action to keep the adrenaline going, nor are there enough laughs to keep one entertained. None of the characters are even likeable, with the exception of Oyelowo, who one does warm up to, eventually. While Harold initially starts as this pathetic, detached man, he develops into an adorably dorky, happy-go-lucky character who you do hope it all works out for. Of all the sh***y characters, he’s probably the least sh***y. Copley, in a supporting role, is another stand-out, and proves himself again an actor that should be getting more screen time and more leading roles.
Gringo is a crime caper that fails to take off, and while its various twists and turns will keep some intrigued, a perplexing sense of hollowness is what most audiences will be left with.