Review: ‘Gringo’ Mostly Gives You a Sense of DéJà Vu
Amazon Studios film, ‘Gringo’ stars David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried.
At best, Gringo can be described as a time capsule. It’s the kind of film that takes you back to the wild days of the 90s when Pulp Fiction riffs blasted out of Hollywood like supermarket products. You can also sniff out some Elmore Leonard here and there, and identify the style of the early Coen Brothers.
In short, a bunch of mid-level famous actors play a band of suckers who get mixed up in nasty situations, carpooling between funny and frightening. Do you care for this nostalgic trip? If yes, then hop on.
David Oyelowo plays Harold Soyinka, a Nigerian immigrant trying to build a life in America, unaware of the scammers he is surrounded with. He is a such a nice guy that he refuses to believe that an impending merger will put him out of his job - after all his boss is his friend. When a business trip lands him to Mexico, his life collapses like a house of cards beginning with the news of him losing his job and his wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton) leaving him for another man. What does he do? He stages his own kidnapping for a huge ransom.
But the thumb rule of the genre gets applied and of course, nothing goes as planned.
Scripted by Anthony Tambakis and Michael Stone, Gringo offers an ensemble of madcaps and a bagful of irony. There is a mercenary who will kill so that he can feed kids in Africa, there is a mafia kingpin who is obsessed with the Beatles, and then there are Richard and Elaine, the two pitiless and self-serving bosses of Harold played by Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron. Both Edgerton and Theron display a nasty relish in their characters, but it is the writing that fails the skilled actors.
The film tends to suggest that we might still root for Elaine despite her foul nature only because she’s a woman. For an amoral crime caper, that’s simply a shame.
Director Nash Edgerton (yes, as you rightly guessed, he is the brother of Joel Edgerton) has summoned a fine cast to adhere to his madness, but several sequences carry that sense of déjà vu.
There are some jokes that land with the finesse of a figure skater, and there are some that end up being tone-deaf while attempting to be satirical.
The surprises of the busy plot are actually not very surprising, and the balance of humour and realistic violence doesn’t always gel well. The narrative pawn to push crazy characters were better served in films that are currently sitting comfortably on your streaming platform.
Gringo had the seed of a commentary on the treacherous relationship between immigrants and the American dream.
The billboards in and outside America have always told folks to work hard to achieve the American paradise. Harold is that common immigrant who works hard and does his job right. Little does he know how rigged the system is, and how it favours the rich and the unscrupulous. The realisation comes too late for him. Gringo, the film quite ironically, is not as fortunate as Harold. It sidesteps the realisation in favour of used-up humour.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder)
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