Get the Gringo AKA How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2012)
Mel Gibson fall from grace has been well documented, so I feel no need to dwell on it here. I also don't take any particular moral stance with regard to the man himself. I'm more interested in his work as an actor, director and the material he produces. People are flawed and we all make mistakes. Does this automatically invalidate our work? However, it would appear that I am in the minority on this one, as Mr Gibson has never truly bounced back. The Hollywood establishment has remained sceptical of him in recent years. Therefore, he has financed many of his film projects himself and personally arranged their international distribution deals. Get the Gringo AKA How I Spent My Summer Vacation is one such example of this and the movie premièred on VOD in the US rather than in theatres. However, it did get shown in movie theatres in other territories.
Get the Gringo was at the time of its release a clear return to form for Mel Gibson, harking back to the halcyon days of Payback. It’s a fast paced, hard edged action movie, with interesting if amoral characters. It shows all the intelligence and attention to detail you expect from Gibson. Although directed by Adrian Grunberg who usually specialises in second unit direction, the movie shows the presence of its star in all aspects of the production. Career criminal Gibson find himself in an experimental prison south of the border after a bank job goes wrong. Once inside he proceeds to run rings around gang bosses, corrupt official and play the very system for his own personal gain. Although far from a hero, he does extend a hand of friendship to ten-year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez) and his tough but caring mother (Dolores Heredia).
Now the astute reader may well be asking what is a child doing in a prison? Well the films setting is based on a genuine experiment the Mexican authorities undertook, in which prisoners were allowed to set up their own community while incarcerated. This included bringing their families and running business etc. An interesting idea on paper, but the reality of the situation was a lot closer to Escape From New York. Production designer Bernardo Trujillo has created a unique environment in which the story unfolds. Being a prison that story is a violent and bloody one. There is also an interesting subplot in which one of the crime bosses needs a liver transplant. The only suitable donor is of course the young boy under Gibson's protection. It makes for some curious developments.
Under different circumstances Get the Gringo would have garnered a great deal more attention and would have probably been a box office success if released at a different time. It certainly deserved a wider release within the US, but unfortunately some people in the film industry have long memories. The cinematography is solid, bringing to life the grimy environment and many Mexican clichés are turned on their head. The movie did receive a warmer welcome in the international market under its alternative title of How I Spent My Summer Vacation. For those that like more depth to their thrillers Get the Gringo is certainly worth a viewing and should provide more than just gritty action. There are strong performances and amoral conundrums to enjoy.