THE STORY – Mild-mannered U.S. businessman Harold Soyinka finds himself at the mercy of backstabbing colleagues, local drug lords and a black ops mercenary after traveling to Mexico. Crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal, Harold fights to survive an increasingly dangerous situation that raises the question — is he out of his depth or two steps ahead?
THE CAST – David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton & Sharlto Copley
THE TEAM – Nash Edgerton (Director), Anthony Tambakis & Matthew Stone (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes
By Matt N.
Sometimes (Not all the time but sometimes), I can overlook a film’s questionable message or morals if I feel that the story was tightly told, the actors gave it their all and I was left entertained regardless. That is simply not the case with “Gringo,” from director and brother of the actor (And the star of this movie) Joel Edgerton, Nash Edgerton. Filled with deplorable characters who are literally rewarded for their terrible behavior, there is not much to celebrate in “Gringo” other than a watchable performance from David Oyelowo while every other cast member tries so desperately to get us to either A. Not care about them or B. Hate them in the most passionate of ways.
Harold Soyinka is a Nigerian immigrant who works at a pharmaceutical company called Cannabix Technologies Inc. which has created a “weed pill.” He works under his boss and friend Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) who runs the company alongside Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron). The three plan to take a trip down to Mexico to tell one of their branch managers to stop selling their product to a drug lord in the Mexican Cartel for there is a pending merger within the company and they want to make sure the books are clean. The problem is that Harold is completely unaware of the merger and other shady dealings which Richard and Elaine have going on behind his back. When the truth becomes clear to Harold, he comes up with an idea to have himself kidnapped for ransom so he can pay his wife’s credit card debt (Thandie Newton) and start a new life. Things go south, however, when the actual drug lord who is no longer receiving the product from Cannabix actually kidnaps Harold for real, setting off a chain of events which involves Richard’s brother Mitch (Sharlto Copley) getting involved to extract Harold and bring him back to the States.
As I stated above, David Oyelowo is the reason to see this movie but that is it. Without him, this would be a leading contender for the worst film of 2018 already. He brings an unexpected depth and humanity to a character who is extremely likable, respectful and amusing to watch. We garner a deep bit of sympathy for the man as we see his world come unraveled. Without Oyelowo’s skill in both the dramatic and comedic bits which the role calls for, “Gringo” would be absolutely worthless. Now let me tell you why…Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron are playing two terrible human beings without any sense of a moral compass and you would think that at the very least you could at least tell they are having fun on screen but the truth is exactly the opposite. Both of them are miscast, they both looked bored and the material which they are given to say (“We’ve been dancing all night. Are we going to fuck or what?”) is highly questionable. I wish I could tell you I enjoyed seeing these two actors play against type and thus, adding something unique to their filmography. It is, however, something unique in that it is embarrassing. Thandie Newton and Sharlto Copley are two scene-stealing actors who are also not utilized properly to do what the filmmakers expect them to do….steal the scenes which they are in! And Amanda Seyfried who plays a tourist with her boyfriend (Who is also somehow wrapped up with the drug cartel….don’t ask me to explain) in Mexico who randomly keeps bumping into Harold, her only purpose within the movie is to play a one-note character who factors into Harold’s story in the most superficial of ways towards the end of the film.
With a whacky plot that makes no sense, is meaner than a drug overlord in the Mexican Cartel and an ending which wraps a nice pretty bow on everything with a moral message that says “Sometimes to get ahead in life, you have to do some terrible things too,” “Gringo” is a total disaster of entertainment. The jokes rarely ever land and when they do it is because of the work of David Oyelowo who is honestly working too hard for this material which is undeserving of his efforts. Tonally inconsistent and cruel, you couldn’t pay me $2 million dollars to sit through it again.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – David Oyelowo’s entertaining, unexpectedly humanistic and likable performance.
THE BAD – Everything else. These characters and the message of the movie is just the worst.