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Ten Word or Less ReviewMad Max goes to Mexico.

It’s over Mel.  You’re done.  You aren’t going to be headlining any major features from here on out.  All the bad press, all the negativity, all the drunk insane rants, no one trust you to keep your shit together.  Someone could give you an opportunity at redemption but before they knew it you’d be on the nightly news verbally lambasting Jews, minorities and ex-girlfriends while you tear out Brian Williams heart and eat it, then set your hair on fire.  This largely accepted feeling of Gibson’s total fall from public favor is shared by many in the movie industry and it shows with the unheralded, straight to video/on-demand release of his newest starring feature Get the Gringo.  A gritty, grimy and very decent action flick, under better circumstances Gringo may have found itself playing to wider audiences in a darkened theater.  But thanks to the very vocalized and twisted opinions of Mr. Gibson, it’s a movie which has found itself stuck in the clutter of aimless releases that clog the displays of Redbox everywhere.  Yes, the man who was once voted Sexiest Man Alive and could draw in $200 million at the box office is now on the same playing field as Dolph Lundgren.

Get the Gringo is the kind of flick that fits nicely in the old Gibson wheelhouse.  A spiritual cousin of sorts to his crappy 1999 effort Payback, that movie had Gibson playing charmless and rugged as a thief out to reclaim his stolen cash from backstabbers.  Gringo uses a similar conceit but lets Gibson flaunt the action movie charm he was once so bankable for displaying.  Gringo kicks off with a car chase.  Wearing a clown mask and on the run from U.S. law enforcement, Gibson’s nameless protagonist races along the America/Mexico border trying to avoid capture.  He crashes through the border fence and comes under the thumb of Federales who immediately seize his $2 million in loot and throw him into prison in the hopes he’ll never be heard from again.  This isn’t just a prison though, it’s a self sustained community with rulers and victims and Gibson is the man with no name come to right the wrongs being done by evil men, all with that old Gibson grin planted squarely on his now weathered chin.  Money is stolen, people are tortured, organs are harvested but it’s all in good, grizzly fun.

As he did so recently in Edge of Darkness and even more so in The Beaver, Gibson once again shows that he’s a tried and true performer ready and eager to be in front of the camera.  An aging actor who can still demand attention and get it, exude charm when he needs to and basically win over anyone if given the chance, Gibson is still an invigorating movie performer.  Gringo doesn’t exactly push him into new directions as much as pull from some of his older ones, but this is the first time he’s had anything close to fun since lifting his self imposed exile from acting.  He’s ably supported by a mostly Latino cast, as well as a few fellow gringo character actors, but mostly this is the Gibson show.  Those of you who fondly remember Mad Mel from his heyday may feel a pleasant case of deja vu as he holds together this shaggy story of corruption and vile doings behind tortilla scented prison walls.  He can still charm and harm with the best of his contemporaries, old and new alike.

Gringo has adherence to an action aesthetic few bother with in this age.  Its always greasy and often bloody, innocent bystanders are killed, kids smoke, and when it’s over you’ll likely want to take a shower.  Those looking for an enlightened, romantic or sensitive portrayal of our south of the border brothers won’t find it here.  The Mexico board of tourism would probably hate this thing.  A life long assistant director with an impressive resume, Adrian Grunberg takes the director’s chair for the first time and puts together his story with a sensibility entrenched squarely in the aesthetic of dirt appreciation.  Everything in this film feels as if its been sculpted out of dust and blood.  Grunburg successfully dresses up a by the numbers action genre lark, putting a good spin on tropes and traditions lesser filmmakers can’t make fresh.  The Rock has been trying unsuccessfully to make this movie for years.  Under his direction Gringo runs a brisk 90 minutes, rarely pausing to linger aimlessly or wonder off its well worn path.  His only real misstep is a consistent reliance on an obtrusive narration from Gibson that feels forced over things.  Here’s hoping that the next time he directs a feature it doesn’t feature a meltdown prone leading man on the wrong side of audience forgivness.

Once again I’m left to lament the sad state of Mr. Mel Gibson.  In three years he’s turned in three diverse performances in a variety of films which show him to be as versatile and skilled as ever.  He’s got a face and demeanor meant for film and one day soon I hope someone thinks to make a black and white feature with the nutcase.  But as it stands Gibson looks to have a limited future in film acting.  With all those burned bridges the IMDB shows that his only upcoming job is in Machete Kills for Robert Rodriguez.  When you’re left slumming it in a Rodriguez flick with nothing else on the horizon, you’ve got nowhere left to go.

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