Produced by Rebecca Yeldham, Beth Kono,
Nash Edgerton, Charlize Theron,
Anthony Tambakis, A. J. Dix
Screenplay by Anthony Tambakis,
Story by Matthew Stone
Directed by Nash Edgerton
Starring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron,
Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried,
Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley,
Gringo was not what I expected.
From the marketing I was expecting was just another Pineapple Express. What I got was something much smarter and more entertaining.
Gringo is the story of a Nigerian immigrant, Harold (David Oyelowo), who believes in the American dream.
Harold works the typical middle management position for an up and coming Chicago based Pharmaceutical company. His naivety, hard work, and friendship are taken advantage of by his American business colleague and “friend”, Richard (Joel Edgerton).
While on a business trip to Mexico, to visit one of the company’s factories, Harold eyes are opened to the reality of his life. With no job, no friends or family to return to, Harold embarks on a desperate plan to take back part of what Richard has stolen from him.
Inspired by Mexican News headlines, Harold stages his own kidnapping in an effort to have Richard’s company pay the ransom to him. Everything that could go wrong does go wrong and Harold finds himself mixed up with the local drug cartel and hunted everywhere he goes. How and if Harold will get himself out of this mess makes for a funny and oddly endearing comedy.
David Oyelowo shines as Harold. Usually cast as serious and stoic characters, Oyelowo is the perfect mix of the straight man, who is the punchline of the joke, the comedian that gets a laugh through physical comedy, and the dramatic actor who makes the quiet emotional scene pull on your heartstrings. Oyelowo is the perfect foil to Joel Edgerton’s bro-like Richard and Richard’s man-eating business partner Elaine, played by Charlize Theron.
Both Edgerton and Theron do a fantastic job of representing the worst of white collar Americans. You will love to hate them. Charlize’s does such a great job being the cutthroat executive, outplaying the men in a man-centric executive world, that you can’t help but cheer for her just a little. Each member of the cast is just the right ingredient for what the story needs.
The excellent cast is not the only the stars of Gringo. The writing and the action shine as well. Writers Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis count on you having watched at least a dozen films that are similar to their story. The writers use it to their advantage in the film. They know you have seen films like this on an airplane or late at night when you can’t sleep. They give you just enough of the usual beats and situations you have seen repeatedly, so you think you know where the story is going. Then they turn that film trope on it head. They turn left when you are expecting the movie to go right.
Director Nash Edgerton knows how to pace a film. Gringo lets you experience the film and become attached to the main character of Harold. You feel the danger of the Cartels, you understand and hate the arrogance and entitlement of the Americans. The actors are allowed the space to open up and give you something to latch on to. When Edgerton shifts gears and takes Harold and the rest of the characters on this wild ride you are left wondering how could it all possibly work out.
Nash Edgerton’s previous experience as a stunt man comes through in well directed action sequences that took me by surprise. It makes sense that the action and intensity seemed natural for him. It is refreshing that the heart and the humor of the film were handled with as much aplomb.
Among the film releases this spring, Gringo is a bit of an underdog as much as Harold is. If you are wanting a well-made, gripping film that is both funny and a heartwarming, then I can’t recommend Gringo enough.