In Get the Gringo Mel Gibson stars as a nameless career criminal who lands himself in a Mexican prison after crashing rather spectacularly across the border during a frantic failed getaway. A whole bunch of stolen cash is involved, as well as corrupt cops and various dingy criminals, not to mention the usual gangs and mafia types all in due course. This leads to quite a mess, with Gibson’s haggard criminal behind bars and everyone else after either him, the money or whatever else is convenient for more shootouts and spectacular grenade explosions.
That said, ‘behind bars’ is a bit of a stretch. The prison here is more comparable to something like the New York city-prison in Escape from New York. Of course, it’s nowhere near that big and complex, but it is essentially its own thriving little township, like the world’s worst mall replete with sex, guns, drugs and a firmly established internal hierarchy, from twitchy real estate agent all the way up to the bathrobe-wearing greasy bigwig in need of a new liver.
Gibson’s crim here is the ‘gringo’ – one wonders what outcry there might have been had a different racial slur been used in the title. But I digress, despite being the newbie on the block he quickly uses his skills to discern the who’s who of his temporary hotel so as to track down his lost money and escape. An experienced operator, Gibson’s edgy performance bears the grit of a man who’s dealt with a lot of crap in the past (surprise?!) and also knows how to dish it out when it’s the right time.
Now the wrench: our favourite gringo befriends a 10-year-old kid (Kevin Hernandez) with a smoking habit who’s in the prison for a spoilery reason. It turns out that the two characters are in positions to help each other out. Hernandez is fantastic in the role, coming across as both mature and naïve while bearing the kind of macho bravado that’s sure to rile a few feathers. Gibson and Hernandez have great chemistry – the film is at its exploitative best whenever the no-name kid is goading Mr. Gringo (credited as ‘Driver’) for another cigarette. Naturally, the kid’s mum (Dolores Heredia) also appears, sending mixed messages as the lead’s obligatory romantic interest.
At a couple of junctures, particularly towards the climax, the story teases a surprisingly dark direction but chickens out at the last moment. It’s a shame that co-writers Gibson, Perskie and director Adrian Grunberg couldn’t commit to taking the less-travelled road, instead opting for the sadly typical Hollywood ending. Even so, it moves at a quick clip and Grunberg’s relative inexperience at the helm doesn’t stop him from bringing it all together in a tight package that reminds us why Mel Gibson used to be such a bankable actor before everyone was out to get the gringo.
Get the Gringo is a solid B-movie; an exploitation flick chock full of gritty, grungy flair that I’ve no qualms recommending to both Gibson fans and action movie diehards.