Disney may be hoping to win the weekend with A Wrinkle In Time, but cinephiles who want a decidedly more adult and R-Rated experience may look to black comedy Gringo. Given the film’s fantastic starring cast, one would think that Gringo is all but a guaranteed success. Unfortunately even the strongest performance couldn’t save Gringo from becoming a bit of a bloated mess.
Nailing the comedy genre isn’t an easy task, and unfortunately Gringo suffers in this area. The film struggles with its tone, and its large cast ultimately weighs it down. There’s definitely some great moments of comedy, as the script by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone is witty and socially aware. But since drug violence and the cartel are at the center of the plot, there is some horrific violence, as well. These moments of gunfights and amputations will definitely shock audiences, and will probably be a highlight for those moviegoers who are more friendly to gore.
Gringo largely revolves around the employees at Cannabix Technologies Inc, which is developing a marijuana pill. But since recreational marijuana use isn’t legal in all states, they must work on the drug across the Mexican border. The operation is being “run” by office lackey Harold (Selma‘s David Oyelowo), who is essentially treated like a doormat by both his bosses (Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton) and his wife, Bonnie (Thandie Newton).
Harold’s “best friend,” Joel Edgerton’s Richard, is the head of the company, but unsurprisingly ends up being not such a great guy. When Harold learns the truth, he tries to convince Richard that he was kidnapped in Mexico — hoping to cash out on his “ransom.” Ultimately this, plus Richard royally pissing off the cartel, puts Richard in a crazy journey of survival and misadventure in a foreign land.
Helmed by actor/stuntman Nash Edgerton in his biggest gig to date, Gringo attempts to highlight each of the large ensemble cast. A poor man’s Crash with way more laughs, each of the characters end up popping into the narrative, and affecting Harold’s attempts at surviving his time across the border. But because Nash Edgerton has so many characters (and actors) to service, he ultimately produced a bloated black comedy that doesn’t quite deliver on laughs.
Ultimately Gringo would have benefitted from a smaller cast, and a greater focus on David Oyelowo’s Harold. Oyelowo goes through the full gamut of emotions as the utterly likeable Harold, and he’s largely the saving grace in the film’s weaker moments. He has enough charisma to carry the movie, and should probably have been given more screen time to truly shine.
Charlize Theron is another standout of the film, playing the stone cold co-president Elaine Markinson. Elaine is fifty shades of evil, and Theron has the perfect ability to transform into that ice queen, while also showing rare moments of vulnerability. The same cannot be said for the rest of Gringo‘s supporting characters, who range from slightly amusing to almost non-existent.
Amanda Seyfried and Thandie Newton are barely in the film, which feels like a waste of their talents. The entire storyline revolving around Seyfried and her boyfriend felt unnecessary, despite the Mean Girls actress’ best attempts to play a character more captivating than what was on the page. While Thandie Newton is given a bit more to work with by playing Harold’s cheating wife, her fate ultimately feels unresolved during the movie’s surprising ending.
Rounding out the bloated cast is Sharlto Copley (Chappie, Maleficent), who plays a chilled out former bounty hunter and assassin. Pop culture icon Paris Jackson also has a role, making her film debut after having a brief stint on Fox’s Star. Fans will also be happy to see Ferris Bueller‘s Alan Ruck shine in a small role– one of the standout tertiary characters. Charmed reboot star Melonie Diaz also plays a disgruntled receptionist, giving her all with limited screen time.
The big pool of characters seems to weigh Gringo down, and the overall pacing is a major issue. The first act is a very slow burn, and the highs don’t necessarily make it worth it. There occasional laughs are there, coupled with some hilariously shocking violence. And while there are enough pops of excitement to keep audiences from losing interest, the movie is overall a bit messy and uneven. The tone is hard to place in its trailers, which is an experience that translates to the theatrical cut.