Sometimes the best thing a movie can do is pleasantly surprise. Gringo is one such film. A fun and exhilarating mix of dark comedy and dramatic intrigue, Gringo follows a bumbling and meek businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) who finds himself the victim of circumstance when he is sold out by his back-stabbing bosses and wrangled into the corrupt world of the Mexican drug cartel. Crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal, Harold battles to survive his increasingly dangerous situation resulting in a story that is as ridiculous as it is entertaining.
American cinema has never had a very good grasp of black comedy. Too often struggling to find the balance between the absurdity of a situation and the truth of the response. Luckily, Australian Nash Edgerton (in his feature length directorial debut) lends his talents to this drug smuggling tale. While some camera choices are questionable, the film is so full of interesting characters that it is forgiven its flaws. Pacing toward the middle of the film stumbles slightly and the plot becomes increasingly convoluted, however the film picks itself up again at the end of the third act. Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron portray the greed stricken bureaucratic bosses of David Oyelowo’s lowly salesman. Their caricatures are pitch perfect with the right amount of believability and mirthful dodging of accountability. Edgerton employs an over-compensating hypermasculinity that is very amusing, however it is Theron who steals the show. Theron has a true prowess for embodying characters of immoral and questionable motivates. Her witty and spiteful ice queen hides a lonely alcoholic bully that is reminiscent of her stellar turn in Jason Reitman’s Young Adult. David Oyelowo is a good every man and tragic victim of circumstance will make you question “do good people get what they deserve?”. He is extremely likeable, however with a role this size, it would have been nice to see a little more development.
Performances aside, Gringo struggles to understand what it is. One will leave the theatre unsure if they have seen a good bad movie, or a bad good movie. An interesting position for a film to have. Either way, all is pretty much forgiven as it is an easy-to-watch entertaining film that moves along nicely. It’s a film that won’t win awards nor break a billion superhero dollars, but it’s a good story with some great performances. It isn’t as memorable as other recent crime black comedies like Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, but it is still worth a look. A solid bit of pulp fiction.
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