GRINGO gets 4/10 The good, the bad, and the fugly

Directed by Nash Edgerton
Starring David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron


Stuck in upper-middle management of a pharmaceutical company, Harold (David Oyelowo) pursues the day to day grind, unaware of how his professional and personal life are falling apart around him. When his boss and supposed friend (Joel Edgerton) asks him to head to Mexico to handle business interests, Harold never suspects that in two days he’ll be calling the office to tell them of his kidnapping. This is just the start of Harold’s misadventures, as it sees him thrown into a world of drug cartels, mercenaries and corporate malfeasance.

Gringo should be a slam dunk. A great cast, an interesting setup, and an everyman rebelling against his dull job and horrible bosses (ala ….well, Horrible Bosses)—it should be something that has a resonance for most people stuck in a nine-to-five grind. Unfortunately the film is a mess, undermined from the beginning by a dire script and a flawed execution. Gringo mistakes complication for complexity, and continually welds extra elements onto the plot to add those complications. Of course, each of these added elements need new characters, each with their own agenda to pursue. Eventually the whole thing looks less like a clever Coen brothers’ inspired script, and more like a Jenga tower constructed by a meth-addicted baboon. No surprises then, that it collapses fairly quickly. But for the unfortunate viewers, it somehow takes almost two hours for the final block to hit the floor, all of which gives the exceptional cast little to work with.

Oyelowo (Selma, Queen of Katwe) seems to lack any timing for comedy, often pitching his put-upon office drone on the edge of a hysterical fit. Granted it’s a hard role to sell, but Oyelowo is certainly not the right fit. He’s better in the quieter moments of the film, when he does allow the gentle nature of the character to show through. Joel Edgerton (It Comes At Night) does what he can, but his character never grows beyond two dimensions. Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) is probably the best of the bunch working with what could be described as a pretty vile cliché of an ambitious woman (the pharmaceutical company co-owner). However, in amongst the over-emphasised sexual manipulation and the alpha dog behaviour, there is one moment of personal vulnerability that at least gives her character a touch of depth.

A long grind to the finish, Gringo really misses the mark, either never knowing what it wants to say, or just never being able to coherently state it.