Film Review – Gringo
If you have seen the trailers for Gringo, the cast is appealing, and the kidnap caper plot looks entertaining. The use of a marijuana drug in the plot may lead you to think this is a stoner comedy, but that is far from correct. The drug is a catalyst for the departure to Mexico where most of the film takes place.
Gringo follows Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), a Nigerian-American businessman who is quite complacent with his life. That is until he meets with his accountant (Bashir Salahuddin) and starkly realizes that his wife, Bonnie (Thandie Newton), is sinking the financial ship of their bank accounts. He also gets a tip that the pharmaceutical company that he works for may be merging, making Harold worried for his job. He is only employed there because of his friendship with the co-president, Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton). When problems develop at the production warehouse in Mexico where the marijuana drug is made, Harold goes with Richard and the other co-president, Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron) on a business trip to Mexico. This is where all the fun begins as it is revealed that the company has been selling some of the product to a drug cartel of the Black Panther (Carlos Corona) and now wants to stop the sale. This does not go over well, and Harold becomes the target of the cartel because he is the only person who can retrieve the recipe for the drug.
There are sub-plots going on in Gringo that make explaining the film a bit long and complicated. Miles (Harry Treadaway) travels to Mexico to on a drug run for some of the new marijuana pills, and girlfriend Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) is ignorant of the reason but is along for the vacation. Richard’s brother has many talents, and one of those is retrieving missing/kidnapped people. Mitch Rusk (Sharlto Copley) is called in when things become complicated with Howard.
David Oyelowo, known for his dramatic roles, steps in a partially-comedic role well. Using a Nigerian accent, it seems to elevate his surprise and comedic reactions to some terrible situations. Harold is not seen as someone who is on the up-and-up and can be taken advantage of in both his personal and work life. Initially, Oyelowo plays Harold as ignorant of what is going on around him, but once the tables are turned, he shows us Harold is partially-capable of getting himself out of things. He also just has incredibly good luck and good first instincts. Harold’s developing friendship with Mitch is another highlight of the film. Harold distrusts him (rightly so) at the beginning but becomes a quasi-business partner with Mitch. He eventually learns to trust Mitch (although this is partial to his detriment), even though his brother Richard has failed at trust and friendship in all the ways possible.
Richard Rusk is the catalyst for everything that could go wrong in Harold’s life; it’s just that Harold doesn’t know all about it. Edgerton rarely plays a bad guy, and in Gringo, he is a guy who makes horrible decisions that affect everyone around him. He also happens to be a Grade-A douchebag, a schoolyard bully. Throughout the film, we hope that there may be some redeeming qualities in Richard, but he continues to go further down the rabbit hole where no one likes him or respects him. What makes this character more interesting is that he does not think he is doing anything wrong. He takes advantage of people with no regard to the consequences.
Gringo also brings another great role for Charlize Theron as Elaine. Theron plays another bad person, and Elaine is quite content to be seen as that. While she plays a sexy man-eater with a taste for squashing the little people below her, Theron takes it a step further and gives Elaine some weakness. She is taken aback when she is rejected by Richard multiple times, and she does get to the bottom of the reason with a quizzical response. We see her get a bit emotional in response to this rejection which is surprising. And when we think she will sleep with anyone to get her way, she shutdowns possible-merger president Jerry (Alan Ruck) when he assumes they will be sleeping together. Basically, she is a man-eater with some backbone, not complacent to the situations she is in and willing to take advantage of being a woman when she can.
Gringo is a fun ride with plenty of interesting characters, violence, and comedy to make it an enjoyable film. It enables its great actors to have some fun with roles they are rarely seen inhabiting. David Oyelowo’s Harold is the highlight of the film and provides the majority of the laughs. It is a film to be enjoyed this weekend after you have already seen Black Panther and you would rather not see a serious Edgerton in Red Sparrow.
P.S. Paris Jackson, Michael Jackson’s daughter, has a small role at the beginning of the film.