Film: “Gringo”; Director: Nash Edgerton; Cast: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Treadaway, Thandie Newton, Melonie Diaz, Carlos Corona and Sharlto Copley; Rating: ***
“Gringo” is an unoriginal, twisted, messy and at times incoherent madcap dark crime comedy that is largely fun to watch because of its superb cast. It is a politically incorrect and sometimes convoluted drama that doesn’t expect you to take it seriously for a second.
The story revolves around Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) a Nigerian migrant who has a mid-level job at a Chicago pharma company run by his college friend Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and his psychotically ambitious partner, Elaine (Charlize Theron).
Early on in the narrative, Harold’s accountant Stu (Bashir Salahuddin) warns him that he would soon be rendered jobless due to an impending corporate merger. Hurt and disappointed, Harold confronts Richard who dismisses it as a rumour and responds with a ridiculous pseudo-parable about carrots and bananas.
Unbeknownst to Harold, Richard and Elaine have been offloading a portion of their inventory to a Mexican drug cartel to raise the much needed cash, also, his spendthrift wife, Bonnie (Thandie Newton) is sleeping with Richard. So while on a work trip to Mexico, he gets double stabbed with the back-to-back news that he is about to lose his job and wife.
In order to overcome the situation, Harold fakes his own kidnapping with the intention to fleece Richard of five million dollars. What he doesn’t know is that he is about to be kidnapped for real by Villegas (Carlos Corona) aka The Black Panther – a cartel boss who is looking to get his hands on a top-secret marijuana pill formula that Harold’s company holds.
This sets the ball rolling for a screeching roller-coaster drama. Predictably convoluted, this is a surprisingly gripping tangle of miscommunications, confusion and back-stabbing.
There are also sub-plots which involve Mitch Rush – an ex-mercenary with a newfound interest in charity work who is assigned to eliminate Harold and two tourists Miles (Harry Treadaway) and Sunny (Amanda Seyfried). Miles is in Mexico to grab a drug sample and smuggle it back to the state. His accompanying girlfriend Sunny has no inkling that her boyfriend is on a dangerous and very ridiculous mission.
In fact, everyone wants Harold including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), who is hoping Harold will unwittingly help them to break a major case.
The plot is definitely convoluted and the screenwriters Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone along with the director Nash Edgerton do a fabulous job of juggling the multiple storylines. It uses a flashy and dramatic approach in an attempt to cover up its weak storyline. And the pacing too is an issue as it takes forever to get into the story and develop a connection which by the end plants us firmly in Harold’s corner.
With an author-backed role, Oyelowo steals the show with his sense of humour and superb comic timing. And to match him on the other side of the scale is Charlize Theron as the antagonist. She is brilliant as the predatory Elaine who would do anything to get ahead in life. Joel Edgerton is adequately loathsome as the yuppie opportunist. The others in the supporting cast leave their mark onscreen, making their characters relatable.
With good production values and ace technical qualities, the film does stand out among its genre flicks.