Cast: David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried
Director: Nash Edgerton
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Combining dark comedy with dramatic intrigue, Gringo joyrides across the border into Mexico, where all is not as it seems for mild-mannered American businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo). Crossing the line from citizen to criminal, Harold tangles with duplicitous business partners, Mexican drug lords, international mercenaries, and the DEA. As he attempts to survive in one of the most dangerous places on earth, the question lingers: is this ordinary man in way over his head, or is he two steps ahead? Directed by Nash Edgerton, who made his feature length directorial debut with the acclaimed Australian thriller The Square, Gringo also stars Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron, Yul Vazquez, Thandie Newton, and Sharlto Copley. Financed by Amazon Studios, the film is written by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone, and produced by Rebecca Yeldham, Nash Edgerton, Beth Kono, A.J. Dix, Charlize Theron and Anthony Tambakis.
For a comedy with a cast of primarily dramatic actors, Gringo shows us that every type of talented actor can successfully transition to comedy. All of these actors nail their roles and deliver a performance that anyone can relate to. While the acting is fine, Gringo is weighed down by its poorly written plot. Whether it is trying to figure out which character we are supposed to be rooting for or an ending that leaves us unsatisfied, Gringo wastes a great cast on mediocre source material.
The film follows Harold (Oyelowo) and the problems he has at home and at work. He is having issues in his marriage, he is borderline bankrupt, and his boss Richard (Edgerton) is degrading and rude to him. Harold has been working in Mexico to help his company expand their business and this is where the majority of the plot takes place. This is also where many of the actors shine and their true characteristics are shown. Oyelowo provides a nice blend of both physical and situational comedy that adds to some of the darker insult comedy that the film relies on. Edgerton plays that mid-level executive that is way too full of himself and thinks the world is made for him to use and abuse, but he does it in the most relatable way possible. We all know that one guy that takes himself way too seriously and thinks that he is the center of the world and Edgerton plays that role perfectly. Outside of those two roles, I really enjoyed the chemistry between Harold and Mitch (Sharlto Copley). Mitch is hired by his brother Richard to find Harold after he is kidnapped by the cartel and held for ransom. As their situation unfolds, it is clear that both of them think that Richard is a terrible person, but they have their own goals that they need to accomplish. They have a great back-and-forth and as they begin to understand each other better and their situation becomes more and more ridiculous, they grow closer and their plans start to coincide with one another. These two really steal the show and made the second and third act more enjoyable than if they had not been included.
Moving on to the weaker parts of the film, there is no clear direction on who we are supposed to be rooting for. The film is clearly from Harold’s perspective, but the subplots involve terrible people and puts the viewer in a no-win situation. The love triangle between Richard, Elaine (Theron), and Harold’s wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton), involves people who are all morally reprehensible, but makes us choose one of them to root for. We know that Richard and Bonnie are terrible based on the way they treat Harold, but Elaine is just as bad to Harold even though she has no real reason to. If she is supposed to be character with the moral high ground, then why does she also act in such as unethical way? I felt that I would be unsatisfied with any outcome that the movie had to offer these three and I was unfortunately proven right. Speaking of outcomes, the ending of Harold’s story left a relatively bad taste in my mouth. The conclusion of the storyline between Harold and Mitch ends abruptly and the possibility of something better is not explored. Harold’s decisions at the end of the film are suggested by people he has never met or interacted with, so all of that buildup in the film leads to a random person making the final decision. While certain characters got the ending they deserved, most of the characters’ endings do not deliver what the movie was building up to.
Overall, Gringo had more than its fair share of talent and potential, but it was all blown by an ending and story that did not make me feel good. Comedies are supposed to make us enjoy our time watching it, and while this movie has plenty of laughs to go around, the final act does not make me feel the way I probably should. Most of the people involved in this movie do not have a lot of experience with comedy, and at points it shows, but there was more than enough room for something better to happen. I hope that if they try to do something like this in the future, they learn from their mistakes and develop upon the decent foundation they had here.
Overall Score: 5/10