If you’ve a hankering for a dark, adult-edged comedy that mixes up some averagely entertaining action and mild dramatic intrigue, Gringo is just about a joyride worth taking.
Welcome to Mexico, where the cartels are all powerful and mild-mannered businessmen like Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) don’t generally last very long. And so it is that Harold soon finds himself seriously out of his depth when his back-stabbing business colleagues set him up. Before long Harold and those around him are in the firing line of not just the local drug lords but also a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary named Mitch (Sharlto Copley).
There’s a certain amount of fun in watching Harold cross the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal – whilst having a mid-life crisis - as he must battle to survive his increasingly preposterous and dangerous situation. Oyelowo certainly shows that he can play for laughs and his dubious bosses Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton are the central crux to the film and bring a decent amount of chemistry to the party.
Alas the humour starts to wear a bit thin as the film shifts tones several times, throwing all kind of plot devices into the fray and hoping for the best. Harold’s freak-out reaction when his wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton) says she’s leaving him is to fake his own kidnapping – which really might not be the best idea in a country where kidnapping is all too common.
As the plot whirlwinds along it catches up a young couple trying to get into the drug running game into the danger – but Miles (Harry Treadaway) and Sunny (Amanda Seyfried)’s subplot doesn’t add anything except to pad out the thin story.
It's Charlize Theron who steals all her scenes though, implying danger with every smile, reminiscent of the snarky, sexually manipulative femme fatale she played back in 1996’s Two Days in the Valley.
Director Edgerton does at least deliver some good stunt scenes – he used to be a stuntman himself so obviously uses what he knows to his and the audience’s advantage. But overall Gringo suffers from covering ground that has been done much better before in the well-worn drug action flicks and TV shows.
Be no means a classic, Gringo is a disposable burst of entertainment that won’t linger long in the memory.