After watching Gringo, two films came to mind: Sicario and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Sicario is an uncompromising crime film while Lock Stock is a crime film with humourous elements and mufti-interconnected stories that create a powerful dialogue-driven narrative, fabulous characters and a dynamite soundtrack.
That brings us back to Gringo. It tries unsuccessfully to be a bit of both of the other two films. It is directed by Australian Nash Edgerton, stars his brother Joel Edgerton and produced by and starring South African-American Charlize Theron.
It is a convoluted tale of drug smuggling, corporate greed, disloyalty and cultural stereotyping.
To unravel the diverse storylines that coalesce into a tale of treachery, infidelity, betrayal, and corruption requires you to suspend your disbelief to a point that, at times, borders on the ridiculous.
The dialogue betrays the action moments before it actually happens, which leads the audience to believe it’s all derivative and overblown as well as being loosely constructed.
Edgerton and Theron are pharmaceutical company directors who are dealing with Mexican drug cartels. David Oyelowo is a naïve company employee who believes people are well intentioned and caring, which drops him into a world of deceit and danger. He is too innocent for his own good.
The links and threads in Gringo are too numerous to describe and the coincidences that work to resolve the interwoven stories are mostly predictable.
Gringo plays to any number of racial, cultural and film stereotypes. The characters are cardboard cut-out characters that lack depth of personality.
Edgerton is the archetypal corrupt corporate executive; Theron is an over-the-top scheming temptress; Oyelowo the guileless optimist and Carlos Corono the sociopathic Mexican drug cartel lord.
Gringo is unsure whether it wants to take the comic route along the lines of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon or the hard-nosed, uncompromising seriousness of Sicario.
That’s its downfall. It shifts between moments of caricature and scenes of toe-curling violence, featuring bolt cutters interacting with human feet.
Gringo will not promote Mexico as a holiday destination. It conveys the impression that all Mexicans are connected to the drug cartels and complicit in the associated extreme violence.
Whereas Lock Stock and Sicario lay a foundation of storytelling based on clever scripts and deep character development, Gringo plays to stereotypes and has so many loose threads involving a host of characters and different stories that you could knit a sweater.
For crime films that offer genuine surprises and make their audiences grip their cinema seats, go back and watch Sicario and Lock Stock, and, for that matter, the Australian film Two Hands. They are more successful at this caper than Gringo.