16th March 2018

Review: Gringo

From the Edgerton brothers, a hit-and-miss film with a compelling moral message and a very weak plot
Review: Gringo
photo: Amazon Studios

Gringo is a confusing mishmash of genres that fails to reach a clear direction, with a stumbling plot and plain characters. Is Edgerton in way of his head?

To say this movie has a messy plot is an understatement. As if the writers have taken the very same weed pills that Harold helps produce, multiple story lines running through the film are forgotten and hastily remembered in an amnesiac haze.

The movie itself was unspectacular but for some reason, I couldn’t say I was bored. The ensemble cast makes you wonder why they chose to star in a seemingly B-list movie and at times, they do feel slightly overqualified. Yet, I was still entertained for the most part.

Gringo stars down-on-his-luck Harold Soyinka — played by the brilliant David Oyelowo — who unknowingly works for a shady drug company. Hapless Harold is a really nice guy and the film goes out of its way to show you this. But life seems to be treating him harshly. He’s in debt, his bosses (Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton) are hard on him, and he’s losing his wife. All in all, you can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

Along with his bosses, he travels to Mexico to handle some business but Harold stays back and fakes his kidnapping. Then proceeds a bunch of cat-and-mouse chases as a number of people try to find Harold, including a Mexican drug cartel.

Oyelowo does his best to inject life into his character and the movie on the whole. He brings a slice of comedy into Gringo and you can’t help but cheer at the end when he finally gets his way.

His character brings a moral tale — that good things happen to good people. But overall, the movie is full of poorly written characters that are unable to develop due to the messy plot. And here is where it loses its footing.

There are numerous subplots that aren’t really there for the majority of the film and are often neglected. The unaware Sunny (played by Amanda Seyfried) falls victim to this even though it would have been great to see more of her. Charlize Theron is as always great but her character is one-dimensional and a little too familiar. Meanwhile, Joel Edgerton plays a dumb, charmless character who is infuriating. Both provide humour in their non-PC lines but are at times too overbearing.

Most characters have lovable qualities but are little more than caricatures. That would be fine if this movie was a comedy. But is it a comedy? Unfortunately, the film suffers from a genre identity crisis. It can’t decide if it’s a comedy, a crime thriller, or a drama. The messy genre coverage leaves the film unaware of where it stands. As most of the characters are hyperbolic, it would have been better suited to be a full-on comedy and perhaps would have even fared better if they amped up the humour.

Gringo is a cliched movie with a cliched narrative that somehow at times manages to be overly complicated. On top of this, there are multiple twists that add nothing to the story other than humour. Like Icarus, Gringo flies too close to the sun and gets burned in a lot of places. But the end product is one that can be enjoyable, if you keep expectations low. At least all of the loose ends are tied up neatly by the end of the film and catharsis is served in sweet, sweet karma.

Starring a great cast, Gringo baffles so much that I can’t decide if the film is terrible or so bad that it’s wonderful. However, I can’t say that I was bored or left feeling underwhelmed. So, I guess it did do its job.


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