I had the rare opportunity to catch Get The Gringo on the big screen here in Austin a few months back for its premiere. The general release strategy for Get The Gringo was primarily a VOD and Blu-ray/DVD release, bypassing theaters altogether. And while that may be the direction lots of distributors are leaning in these days, it feels clear that Get The Gringo had to go that route due to Mel Gibson’s offscreen issues.
And honestly, that is a shame. Because Get The Gringo delivers everything a viewer could ask for from a Mel-starring crime/action/comedy film. I had a blast with the movie at its Austin premiere, and felt that it improved upon a second viewing at home on Blu-ray. Much has been made about the fact that Get The Gringo is a bit of a spiritual sequel to Payback. The characters’ names and backgrounds aren’t identical, but it would be easy to see Payback’s Porter rob his way into the situation that Get The Gringo’s “Driver” character finds himself in.
We meet Driver while he is, appropriately, driving along the US-Mexico border, cops on his tail, stolen money getting bled on by his dying partner. He literally crashes into Mexico and finds himself locked into one of the most unique prison environments seen on film in a very long time. He even asks himself, “Is this a prison, or the world’s sh*tt*est mall?” Inside this crazy, vibrant, and corrupt prison, Driver establishes himself and assesses his situation. His primary concern is getting his money back, and then getting free. But soon he meets The Kid (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother, The Kid’s Mom (Dolores Heredia), and his self-serving plans become a lot more complicated.
Get The Gringo is another movie filled entirely with bad guys. Even The Kid’s Mom is a sympathetic character and a good mother, but also a convicted coke smuggler. Gibson’s Driver, as I mentioned, feels a lot like Porter, even to the point of stealing money from a blind beggar to get himself ahead. But Payback’s Porter lived by a code in a world without principles, and that set him apart. Get The Gringo’s lead commits many criminal activities throughout the runtime of the film, but it is clear that he will act in the best interests of The Kid and The Kid’s Mom, once he kind of falls in love with both of them. So maybe Driver is distinguishable as a hero in the corrupt universe of Get The Gringo because he is willing to sacrifice himself for the well being of those he loves. On the flipside, one of the lead villains, Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), is specifically out to kill our lead characters for his own benefit. That is what makes him the villain in this film’s worldview.
Driver will con, steal, and double cross his way out of this amazing and sprawling prison, and you’ll most likely have a blast watching it all happen. The film uses slow motion to an artful effect, evoking 1970s-era Sam Peckinpah films. The slow motion shoot-out in the middle of the film is truly awesome. And the opening crash sequence is a lot of fun as well. Gibson remains an exciting and charismatic screen presence, even if it appears that some of his onscreen giftedness translates into off screen life issues. Kevin Hernandez as The Kid really seals the deal, though. Without Hernandez as a loveable little rogue, this movie would collapse. But, unlike many a film that is ruined by a horrible sidekick or a cheesy child actor, Get The Gringo is elevated to something special with the brave and precocious performance that Hernandez gives. Let’s just say that he is a lot more than just a sidekick. He is more like the key redemptive core of the film, and he nails it.
Get The Gringo isn’t high art. It is a fun, mean, and often-times hilarious piece of crime cinema. It certainly deserved a theatrical run, and I highly recommend renting or purchasing the Blu-ray now that it is out on home video. Fans of Peckinpah, Guy Ritchie, or Mel Gibson will get exactly what they are expecting, and may even be pleasantly surprised.
There are several fun, brief featurettes on the Blu-ray, including a general behind the scenes video and shorts focusing on the car chase, the shoot out, and the prison riot. It is clear that this film was a big undertaking for first time director Adrian Grunberg.
I got to know stunt coordinator JJ Perry a little bit while working on the ActionFest film festival earlier this year. Perry mentioned driving the opening car stunt as being one of the craziest stunts he had ever personally performed, and it was a blast to see him on the bonus features doing his thing!
This is a good-looking film, with the slow motion stuff being the highlight for me. See Get The Gringo in high definition if you can. I’m happy to own this Blu-ray and feel like Get The Gringo will be revisited often in my home, most likely as a double feature with Payback!