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Get the Gringo(2012)
Mel Gibson stars in this action thriller set in a Mexican prison. Driver (Gibson) is a career criminal who crashes his car while trying to escape from the United States Border Patrol in a high-speed car chase over the US-Mexico border. With a trunk full of cash and a bleeding body on his back seat, things aren't looking good for Driver, and he soon finds himself in El Pueblito, Mexico's toughest prison, where life is especially harsh for 'gringos'. However, Driver's bid for survival is unexpectedly aided by his friendship with a 10-year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez).
For more about Get the Gringo and the Get the Gringo Blu-ray release, see Get the Gringo Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on July 17, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Bob Gunton, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Dolores Heredia
Director: Adrian Grunberg
» See full cast & crew
Get the Gringo Blu-ray Review
Gibson woos us back.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, July 17, 2012
Between the DUI, the leaked screaming sessions, and the various allegations of sexism, domestic abuse, homophobia, and racism—one wonders if there can be so much smoke without any fire—Hollywood bad boy Mel Gibson has done little to endear himself to fans over the past few years. Where the Lethal Weapon and Braveheart star once reliably brought in big box office returns, his last film, The Beaver—reuniting him with his Maverick co-star Jodie Foster—took back less than seven million of its $21 million budget. His newest, Get the Gringo, didn't even get a proper stateside theatrical exhibition beyond a single-day showing at ten theaters across the country. Icon Productions and distributor 20th Century Fox opted instead to give the film a video-on-demand release, hoping that cable rentals and inevitable home video sales would recoup their investment. Here's the surprising thing: Get the Gringo ain't bad. It might not be vintage-era-Gibson good—this isn't the second coming of William Wallace—but it's an effectively gritty little crime thriller/comedy with a novel setting and some fun action set pieces. It also features Gibson as the kind of character he plays best—a flawed but likable hero who isn't afraid to get his hands dirty to save the day.
Gibson is the titular "gringo," a nameless, fingerprint-less career criminal credited only as "Driver." Appropriately, we met him—and let's just call him Mel, for the sake of simplicity—as he's speeding away from the police toward the Mexico border, his partner in crime bleeding to death in the back seat, both of them wearing clown costumes. This cheery sartorial choice is never explained, but I can't help feeling that it's a sly wink-wink from Gibson, who wants us to know he's at the point where he can finally laugh at himself. It also helps sets the film's irreverent, darkly funny tone—ever seen a dying clown cough blood through the air in slow motion?—and tells us to expect the unexpected.
After plowing spectacularly through the border fence, Mel is picked up by a couple of crooked Mexican cops who make off with the bags of stolen cash they find in the back seat—cash that belongs to a P.O.'d gangster named Frank (Peter Stormare)—and toss Mel in the Tijuana clink. But this is no ordinary, American-style correctional facility. As its name implies, El Pueblito is practically a little city. Or at least a bad neighborhood. Some inmates pack pistols. A "Smack Shack" sells heroin and meth. Kids dart through the narrow alleyways. There are tattoo parlors and prostitutes, juice stands and taco trucks. Wandering through the place in awe of its excesses and relative freedoms, Mel asks himself a reasonable question: "Is this a prison or the world's shittiest mall?" Either way, it's an unusual setting, like a miniature, enclosed version of the favela in City of God.
The well-paced film wastes no time setting up the core conflicts. As the lone whitey, Mel is angling for a way to get respect inside, and initially thinks he needs to align himself with Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho)—a.k.a. King Rat—the high-profile cartel kingpin who practically runs the joint. (The dude's cell is actually a penthouse with a jacuzzi.) But this is before Mel befriends The Kid (The Sitter's Kevin Hernandez), a precocious, cigarette-smoking 10-year-old who gives him the lowdown on prison politics. The Kid has an ax to grind with King Rat, who killed his father and prostitutes his mother (Dolores Heredia). The kicker here, though, is that The Kid is being held against his will as a kind of organ donor slave; when the time comes, he'll have to die so the sick Javi can take his liver. But you know Mel's not gonna let that happen.
Hell no. From the title and premise, you might assume Get the Gringo is yet another faux-grindhouse film, a me-too Machete or Bad Ass or Hobo with a Shotgun. But the problem with those movies is that they mask any real drama with a thickly slathered-on layer of irony. Get the Gringo is a bit more authentic. Though on some level it's certainly aware of its own loveably cornball '80s action movie sensibility, it's not out to parody or be meta-clever. Director Adrien Grunberg—the Apocalypto 1st AD who co-wrote the script with Gibson and producer Stacy Perskie—has the modest aim of making an entertaining shoot-em-up with a solid story and some memorable explosions.
For the most part, he succeeds. Gringo pulls a page or two from No Country for Old Men, especially when King Rat allows Mel to live and sends him back across the border on a mission to kill the vindictive Frank. Here, Mel sets up an elaborate ruse in a Texan high-rise, pretending to be Clint Eastwood one minute—no, really—and casually tossing grenades over his shoulders the next. You can also expect a raucous prison raid, some graphic abdominal surgery, and a prison courtyard showdown that plays like a scene from an amped-up spaghetti western, leaving a score or more dead or dying on the concrete. Some of the violence is quite brutal—see: a mercenary getting shot through the eye, the lens of his sunglasses exploding with the impact—but the predominantly digital blood spurts are no match for good old fashioned physical squibs.
As for Gibson, he chews up the role with devil-may-care relish, cracking jokes and busting caps. It's genuinely good to see him in his element again as badass with a heart. His rough 'n' tumble character may not be fully reformed by the end, but he's at least earned some measure of redemption, and I suspect—with Get the Gringo—that's what Gibson was after too.
Get the Gringo Blu-ray, Video Quality
Get the Gringo crosses the Blu-ray border with a 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that—beyond seeming merely faithful to source—looks pretty damn good. The film was shot digitally using the ever popular Red One cameras, which, when coupled with high quality lenses, are capable of producing a strikingly sharp picture. That's certainly the case here; just check out the pores and creases of Mel Gibson's iconic mug in closeup. There some softer shots, to be sure, but most of the film exhibits a great degree of fine, high definition detail. The film's overall aesthetic is punchy and a bit gritty, with high contrast and a hint of intentional noise in the image—I'm guessing some sort of post-production grain effect. Color is vividly pumped up; reds pop off the screen, highlights take on a creamy yellow cast in hot outdoor sequences, and skin tones go appropriately tanned. Blacks are plenty deep, without crushing relevant shadow detail. I did notice a few blink-and-you'll-miss-'em digital anomalies—some mild aliasing on fine parallel lines, a flash of moire shimmer—but nothing pervasive or distracting. Get the Gringo looks great.
Get the Gringo Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track musters up a significant amount of oomph and immersion. The multi-channel mix makes full use of the soundfield to deliver potent aural action from nearly start to finish. Cars zip and roar between channels in the opening chase sequence. The crash through the border fence is accompanied by a throbbing low-end rumble. Shootouts feature gunfire spraying from every direction, each shot popping off with intensity. Grenades explode loudly, sending debris spraying outward. Backing all this up is a Latin-infused score by Antonio Pinto, occasionally squealing with Santana-like electric guitar. Everything sounds as clear and full and clean as it ought to, although there were one or two scenes where the mid-range seemed a bit too round—for a lack of a better word—taking some of the edge off the highs. Not a big issue though. Note that the dialogue, which is always easy to understand, is a pretty even mix of English and Spanish. Automatic subtitles appear for sections spoken in Spanish, but the disc also includes optional full-time English SDH and Spanish subtitles for those who might need or want them.
Get the Gringo Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Get the Gringo Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Has Mel redeemed himself with audiences? Can he? Only time will tell, but Hollywood and America at large love a good comeback story, so I'd bet on some sort of career resurrection in the not-so-distant future. Get the Gringo makes for a good start. It's the kind of popcorny action entertainment that made us collectively fall in love with Mel in the first place. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray releases of the film features great picture quality, a bumping audio track, and some decent extras, so if you're a longtime Gibson fan—or one considering wandering back into the fold—it's certainly worth picking up. Recommended for all cheesy action movie enthusiasts.
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• Get the Gringo Blu-ray - June 4, 2012
In July, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will bring Get The Gringo to Blu-ray. Mel Gibson (Payback) stars in this blackly comic action-thriller as a gangster who finds himself in over his head when he flees to Mexico after committing a notorious crime. ...
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