Hot Take: Want to watch an impressive cast make a mediocre action comedy? The sad part is with a little bit of quality assurance, a leaner Gringo (about 20 minutes too long) could have made all the difference.
It didn’t surprise me to learn that Gringo, though released in 2018, was filmed in early 2016. With so much time between shooting and release, someone could have done a better job tightening up what could have been a decent action comedy. Instead, Gringo is more of a cautionary tale of what happens when you waste a talented cast on a promising concept but fail to deliver a tighter, more cohesive finished product. A cast featuring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley and bit parts for Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Paris Jackson (Michael Jackson’s daughter) in her feature film debut deserves a better fate than what we’re given with Gringo. Poorly paced and muddled, Gringo is what happens when a good idea is executed sloppily. Just good enough to escape a January release, Gringo doesn’t fully earn it’s place outside of “dump month” with it’s best quality making you long for better films from the same genre which we were treated to throughout the ’90s.
In Gringo, Harold (David Oyelowo) works for Cannabax Technologies, a company that has developed medical marijuana in pill form. His bosses, Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron) have been sending him to Mexico on regular business but, behind his back, have been skimming inventory and selling to a drug lord off the books to try and bring in extra cash. They’re also working on selling the company to a bigger pharmaceutical company which Harold learns will likely find him out of a job. Finding all of this out and then learning that his wife has decided to leave him because she’s having an affair (with his boss and supposed friend Richard), Harold decides to fake his own kidnapping in an attempt to extort a few million dollars from his company on the basis that they have an insurance policy to cover this very thing. Everything goes south once Harold learns that Richard and Elaine made the decision to let the insurance policy lapse and things get even worse when Harold is actually kidnapped by the cartel that Richard and Elaine cut off when they decided to stop selling their product to the Mexican drug lord known as Black Panther.
On paper, Gringo sounds like a solid idea and almost every member of the cast has proven themselves in a previous role in a top notch film but here, look like lesser versions of their best self. Unfortunately, the solid idea is squandered and all that’s left is a poorly executed film with a smattering of funny scenes surrounded by less humorous filler that drags this action comedy into the muck of mediocrity. At certain points, you realize where this film is going and it’s easy to find yourself growing impatient with how long it’s taking for director Nash Edgerton and writers Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone to get us there. It’s very likely you’ll look at your watch and wonder how the heck this movie could possibly still have 30 minutes left to fill. A tighter, more effective script and better direction could have made Gringo something more than adequate. That’s not the case. Gringo falls short and is definitely one that can wait for streaming.
Warnings be damned. That cast is too good to pass up.
You saw enough films like this in the ’90s that, unless it’s special, you’d rather go back and watch one of the better classic action comedies you have seen in a while.