“Gringo” proves Hollywood is apparently paying anyone to write a script these days

Gringo is a movie designed to inspire. Not in the typical way. There is no rousing story of hope and there are no characters who overcome unbeatable odds. Rather, Gringo serves as a remarkable inspiration to struggling writers everywhere. Because no matter how bad you think that script you’ve shoved inside your office desk might be.

There is the very real chance it could one day become a feature-length film. If someone somehow convince somebody somewhere to turn the screenplay for Gringo into a real-life motion picture with real-deal actors. Then, hell, it could happen to anyone.

It is difficult to begin with just where Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone’s Gringo script goes south. Because it is so ill-conceive from the get-go. There are ostensibly two stories fighting for screen time here, neither of them halfway compelling – and I fear in an effort to remedy that. Tambakis and Stone deliberately tried to make one narrative weaker so that the other would triumph. Instead, both sides flatline.

One half of the film focuses on Harold (David Oyelowo), a Chicago-based middle manager who is being set up to take the fall for the criminal antics of his horrible bosses, pharmaceutical executives Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron).

On the other side of things is Sunny (Amanda Seyfried), a just-guess-her-disposition retail clerk who’s drag to Mexico by her boyfriend (Harry Treadaway) as he attempts to score a drug deal. Naturally, this plan goes awry and the pair get mix up with Harold and several barely sketch Mexican stereotypes (ne’er-do-well kidnappers, stoic federales and a cartel boss nickname the Black Panther, which leads to all sorts of non-Chadwick Boseman-relate disappointment).

As director Nash Edgerton attempts to tie his screenwriters’ threads together. He loses track of just what kind of movie he thinks they’re making. Gringo has moments that reach for corporate satire. But they are few and far between – and not all that funny. There are slices of domestic drama, with Harold’s marriage to an unfaithful wife (Thandie Newton) falling apart and romantic betrayal between Richard and Elaine.

There is a hint of political commentary on what happens when ugly Americans go abroad, but the movie seems to hate Mexicans just as much. And then there’s the completely grey area that Sharlto Copley occupies as Richard’s mercenary brother, call in to clean up his mess.

The most painful part of watching all this tonal and narrative sloppiness spill out onto the screen, though, is contemplating how much time was wasted by Gringo’s top-tier cast.

It is easy to imagine how Joel Edgerton got rope in (director Nash is his brother) and maybe Theron felt compelle to lend her star power. Because the film was finance under her Denver and Delilah Productions company.

Copley, perhaps he just needed an excuse to act like a slightly normal human being for once (emphasis on “slightly”). But Oyelowo and Seyfried are mystery players here and I can only imagine what threats coerce Newton. Who rules the small screen in HBO’s Westworld – to waste her energy.

The movie achieves a take-it-or-leave-it watchability without being much to look at, and as a nominal thrill ride. It’s underpower: not once, but twice. Oyelowo is involve in a spinning car collision that has him stumbling out with redouble bruises. There might be a punchline in there somewhere.

So dust off those spec scripts, all you as-yet-unsuccessful scribes – Hollywood’s apparently paying anyone these days.

This twisty action-comedy from Australian brothers Nash (who directed) and Joel Edgerton is colorful and high-energy for a long time. But its humor flags early, and the action finally gets tiring. The Edgertons are part of a collective called Blue-Tongue Films that usually deals in small, gritty crime dramas (Animal Kingdom, Wish You Were Here, etc.).

Gringo is their first big, all-star movie (aside from David Michod’s War Machine). And it seems a little outsize, a little overeager-to-please. It’s as if the energy were ramp up very high in an effort to juggle all the balls in the air. But after a long 110 minutes, a break is needed.

That’s not to say the movie is bad. In fact, while the storyline is very complex, it’s quite clever and easy to follow, with endless new wrinkles, not unlike Logan Lucky. The characters are a good cross-section of types, and most of them get at least one hilarious moment.

That from the Mexican gangster who likes to quiz his visitors on The Beatles to Theron’s snide, potty-mouth declarations and Oyelowo’s Lou Costello-like reactions to his dire situation. It could have been shorter, or benefited from a little breathing room, but on the whole, Gringo is inconsequential fun.

INFO:

Rating: R (for language throughout, violence and sexual content)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Directed By: Nash Edgerton
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo
Written By: Matthew Stone, Anthony Tambakis
In Theaters: Mar 9, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Jun 5, 2018
Runtime: 110 minutes
Studio: Amazon Studios and STX Entertainment

CRITIC REVIEWS FOR GRINGO

Paul Byrnes
Life may be full of coincidences, but screenplays cannot be.

Richard Roeper
Director Nash Edgerton and screenwriters Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone do a fine job of juggling the multiple story lines, moving things along at an entertaining clip.

David Fear
It can’t decide whether it wants to be magnificently toxic or merely mediocre.

Glenn Kenny
‘Pleasant surprise’ might be a misnomer for Gringo.

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