Movie Review: “Gringo”
Harold (David Oyelowo) works for a big pharmaceutical company that plans to launch a new cannabis pill. Rather than smoking, customers would swallow this pill to experience the effects of marijuana. David and his bosses go on a trip to their manufacturers in Mexico to discuss the specifics of their arrangement. The meeting goes according to plan but Harold learns a troubling truth related to his marriage. The next morning, Harold’s bosses (Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton) return to America but Harold is nowhere to be found.
Once back in the United States, Richard and Elaine (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron) receive a call from a distressed Harold saying that he has been kidnapped and that the people that took him are demanding a ransom in exchange for his life. In addition to that, the head of a drug cartel is after Harold due to a shady deal made by Richard and Elaine. Rather than pay the ransom for Harold’s life, Richard sends his brother (former special ops) to retrieve Harold from the kidnappers. Harold is a simple man who has found himself in the middle of Mexico, being hunted by Richard’s brother (Sharlto Copley), a couple of kidnappers, and a Mexican drug cartel.
The Pros & Cons
David Oyelowo (+6pts)
Charlize Theron (-3pts)
Pro: David Oyelowo (+6pts)
David Oyelowo was a great casting for this role. The character has three possible emotions (happy, panicked, and depressed), but there is never a dull moment when he is on screen. He is very funny and incredibly likable. This character is a pretty average guy that has found himself in a pretty chaotic situation. This is pretty entertaining in and of itself, but it is made even more entertaining by David Oyelowo’s over-the-top reactions to everything.
Take nothing away from the rest of the cast. Most of the supporting cast did a great job in this movie, but David Oyelowo was the star. He has a fantastic screen presence, great comedic timing, and a charisma that makes it easy for audiences to relate to his character. This was a very fun and entertaining movie, and it was largely a result of the great talent of David Oyelowo.
Con: Charlize Theron (-3pts)
I know that I just said that most of the supporting cast was great in this movie, but Charlize Theron was the major exception. I cannot quite put a finger on why, but her character really did not work for me. I do not think the blame falls solely on the actress, but my best guess at this character’s issues was that she was supposed to be a strong female character that was written and directed by childish men. The character was overly sexual for really no reason which honestly hurt the movie. The character was always played this way and it felt like an inaccurate stereotype of how childish men perceive “strong” women. I could be way off on this, but this character was so exaggerated and unnecessarily sexualized that it took me out of the movie whenever she was on screen. There just was not a need or a reason for the character to be this way.
Pro: Chaotic (+5pts)
If I had to use one word to describe this movie, I would have to say that it is “chaotic”. There are so many moving parts to this story and it is very unpredictable as a result of that. Between the drug cartel and the kidnappers, it is hard to tell what will happen to Harold next. There are really surprises around every corner. Throwing Richard’s brother into the mix, and adding Harold’s own agenda, only adds to the chaos. With all of these moving parts, there are gunfights, explosions, car chases, and extreme car crashes. Gringo is a comedy but there is a ton of chaotic action and unpredictable moments throughout the movie. I never really knew what would happen next (aside from one storyline) and it was a lot of fun to go on this chaotic adventure with Harold.
Con: Cluttered (-5pts)
While the many moving parts helped in making this movie feel chaotic, they also made it feel cluttered. There were simply too many moving parts in this moie which made the entire thing feel a bit underdeveloped. We have Harold, Harold‘s wife, the kidnappers, Harold’s bosses, the drug cartel, the DEA, Richard‘s brother, a drug smuggler, and the drug smuggler‘s girlfriend. All of these things are happening at once and the filmmakers did not seem to want any of these storylines to take the back burner.
They had two hours to cram all of these storylines into the movie, and while it was chaotic, none of them got the development they deserved (with the exception of Harold). It was like the filmmakers were playing the game Risk and put one troop on every single country on the map. Sure, they got a lot of storylines into the movie, but none of them were one of the film’s strengths. Instead, they were underdeveloped and might as well not have been there.
Pro: Comedy (+6pts)
There was a lot of cool action but this was definitely a comedy movie. There are a ton of jokes and laugh-out-loud moments which made the movie entertaining in spite of its issues. David Oyelowo was hilarious in this movie. Most of the comedy comes from the reactions from this character and the rest come from his misfortune. Harold is a very average person who has found himself in an extraordinary situation. He is very much outside of his comfort zone and is constantly startled or freaking out. When he freaks out, he is either screaming, yelling, or crying and David Oyelowo does this in the most entertaining way. This was an all around funny movie, and Harold was an extremely entertaining character to watch.
Con: Predictable (-3pts)
The storyline regarding Harold and his wife was severely predictable. I will not spoil it here, but there is a “twist” that was too obvious and a head smacking “reveal“ moment that left audiences smacking their own foreheads. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, audiences will have a guess as to where this storyline is going. Then the filmmakers have a fake reveal scene, which was clearly meant to trick the audience, only to have the actual reveal tell the audience something they knew since the beginning. I do not know who wrote this storyline but it was so obvious where they were going with this. The fake out moment could have worked but there was really no alternative to what audiences thought the reveal would be. There was only one logical outcome, so there was really no point in hyping it up as a plot twist and there was no point in attempting s fake out. I know, I was incredibly vague with this one, but I hope I was able to get my point across nonetheless.
Grade: B- (81pts)
Gringo has a few problems but it was a fun movie. The extremely packed cast did not leave the filmmakers any room to develop them properly. Instead of sacrificing some to develop others, the filmmakers decided to equally develop all and properly develop none. This made for a lot of generic and uninteresting side characters that only took up screentime. Charlize Theron’s character felt like an unnecessarily sexualized stereotype and felt out-of-place in this movie.
Despite these issues, Gringo was a funny and entertaining movie. David Oyelowo is a very likable and relatable character who is the subject of most of the film’s laughs. His over-the-top reactions never got old and proved to be entertaining from beginning to end. This was a chaotic movie where the audience never knew what would happen next (except for the storyline between Harold and his wife). It is not an incredible movie, but it is a decent one and is pretty entertaining.