Gringo is the directorial debut for Nash Edgerton, Joel Edgerton’s brother. He has directed shorts and served as a stunt man for many big projects. I always maintained that a big part of a director’s job is to get the best performance from his actors and have to have the ability to tell a great story. I believe Nash accomplished both with Gringo.
Harold (David Oyelowo) works for his “Best Friend” at a company that is rumored to merge with another company, meaning Harold maybe out of a job. He also finds out he is in debt and his wife has been cheating on him. Harold creates a plan that backfires, leading to the cartel and a mercenary to go on the hunt for him. While the story sounds bare bones or common, Gringo makes it work. While the trailers make it seem like the cartel maybe the main antagonist of the movie, you realize later on that they come secondary to the people who are supposed to be your friends and even your family.
Oyelowo is great in this movie. You see a character progression in Harold going from a law abiding, middle management type to someone who is willing to do what it takes to get his life in order. He is very much a pushover at the start but finishes his story arc as someone who is willing to do anything to survive. He is someone you want to cheer for after his life falls to the wayside and he takes control. Harold also seems to get out of situations that remind me of the old Mr. Magoo cartoons. You see his pain when he finds out bad news. You see his joy when he is able to make deals in order for him to survive. He truly does it all.
Charlize Theron as Elaine is also a highlight in acting. Not only is she confident and beautiful, but she also has her moments of growth as well. Finding out her relationship with Rich may not be what it seems, she has a moment of self-doubt but then snaps out of it and takes another path you didn’t expect. She also has some of the best lines in the movie. Sharlto Copley is always great whenever he pops up as the mercenary Mitch. He deals with moral issues as a reformed mercenary that was living a different life and finds himself back into an old profession as he is hired to find Harold and bring him back to Chicago.
Joel Edgerton was okay as the slimy owner of Cannabax Technologies. He just steps over Harold at every chance. The only issue casting wise is Amanda Seyfried as Sunny. She plays a minor side character that helps Harold in Mexico. It’s not Seyfried’s fault as she did well enough, but that character wasn’t interesting. I determine that all main characters in Gringo represent the seven deadly sins. Harold is Envy, Rich is Pride, Elaine is Lust, Bonnie, Harold’s wife (Thandie Newton) is Gluttony, Mitch is Greed, The cartel represents Anger and Sunny’s boyfriend Miles (Harry Treadaway) would be sloth as he refuses to help Sunny with Harold.
There are a few running gags that aren’t too funny, but did put a smile on my face. The use of metaphors involving Gorillas by multiple people and another gag involving an iconic rock band were fun. But the funniest things from Gringo were Harold’s physical gags and Theron’s foul mouth dialogue. There are pacing issues through the movie as I felt the jump between things happening in Mexico and things happening in Chicago were very unbalanced. Something exciting happens then something boring happens.
Also, the run time of almost 2 hours feels way too long. There was too much time between great moments. I consider it a slow burn as it takes time to get into the story itself. I get you have to set up the characters and story, but this took it’s time to get into.