AMAZON STUDIOS / STXFILMS (2018)
Director: Nash Edgerton
Starring: Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, David Oyelowo, Amanda Seyfriend, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley
The brothers Edgerton team up for elder brother Nash’s directorial debut, Gringo. Joel is joined by the perennially-excellent Charlize Theron and David Oyelowo in a crime-adventure-comedy-drama about an oblivious hero and his corrupt superiors at a pharmaceutical organisation that plans to corner the American market with a ‘revolutionary’ marijuana pill.
Take out the words ‘adventure’ and ‘comedy’…and ‘drama’ and you’ll be closer to the truth about this movie.
Harold Soyinka (Oyelowo), a MOR executive with medicinal firm Promethium, is in trouble. A Mexican merger threatens his job, despite his smarmy superiors, Richard (Edgerton) and the seductive Elaine (Theron), allaying his fears at every turn. As the firm moves forward with their marijuana pill Cannabax, the three travel to Mexico to discuss the merger but it becomes apparent very quickly that nobody can be trusted – especially when the buyers are a merciless drug cartel. As youngsters Sunny (Seyfried) and her boyfriend Miles (Treadaway) get caught up in the scheme, everything becomes more convoluted and when Richard’s brother, Mitch (Copley) joins the fray, it’s everyone for themselves as the drug cartel close in and Harold is simultaneously wanted dead and alive.
Oh, Gringo. You could’ve been so good.
Alas, we are left with an uninspired mess of a movie that’s, frankly, at times boring. With such a great cast at his disposal, Nash Edgerton had the tools to craft a solid black comedy-crime caper with a distinct Coen feel. Instead, the majority of the cast is wildly underutilised and this isn’t the clever dark comedy it was looking like it should be from the trailers and marketing.
Oyelowo as the lead is affable and naïve enough to want to follow, and there’s nothing wrong with anyone in the cast overall. Edgerton and Theron deliver solid performances with very generic characters, and Seyfried and Copley are simply wasted - but the writing ensures that most of them just come across as dick-ish anyway.
The killer blow for Gringo is its horrendously messy pace. The middle of the movie trawls and drags along with all the excitement and verve of a corpse, and whilst it picks up and goes all-out in its action-filled finale, it’s all bit late to make any real impact. Trim fifteen minutes off the movie off and it would have at least flowed better. The writing also lacks the incisiveness the story called for, and while the jokes are there, the dialogue is flat and leaves no impression.
Story-wise, it teeters on becoming convoluted but does manage to remain easy to follow, and the frustrating part is that the narrative is very good, it just needed stronger direction.
Gringo, for me, is this year’s The Nice Guys – a movie that had all the tools to be excellent, but ultimately flailed and disappointed. Decent performances and a great narrative are wasted in a movie that feels like a fight to reach the conclusion. Without a spark to light the fuse, Gringo falls apart very quickly