Of all the fallen Mels out there eager to make a comeback (Mel B., Mel C., Mel Sharples) with the whole world, perhaps none struggles as much as Mel Gibson. More than half a decade after his initial fall from the limelight, everything he has ever said and done since then has been highly publicized and scrutinized alike — everything except the movies he has made, that is. Get the Gringo finds Mel returning to the tough, imperfect type of character we all used to love him so much for. Sadly, the film received next to no theatrical distribution in the U.S. whatsoever, receiving its mostly unobserved release via the inexcusable Video-On-Demand format.
Sure, that VOD debut is no doubt attributable to everything else that has happened in Mel’s recent past. It’s a pity, too, since Get the Gringo is an enjoyable, exploitative throwback to Mel’s cinematic past.
The movie — a tale that Mel himself co-wrote and co-produced, and which originally bore the title How I Spent My Summer Vacation — finds Mel cast as a nearly anonymous individual who has stolen a heap of money from a crime boss in the States, and whose high-speed chase to the border lands him on Mexican soil. There, he is robbed of his ill-gotten gains and tossed into El Pueblito — an enormous prison that is actually a crime-ridden, scuzzy community unto itself — where he befriends a ten-year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez) whose mother (Dolores Heredia) works for the prison’s own crime lord, Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho).
It doesn’t take our wise-cracking anti-hero to get back into action, scheming his way around while dreaming of a way out. The ultra-observant criminal takes note that his new young friend is of particular interest to Javi — a man in dire need of a liver transplant from someone with the same rare blood type he has (which, of course, the kid has). And so, the every-man-for-himself careerist decides to have a heart (or spare a liver, as the case were) by making sure to include the kid and his mum in his plan to escape El Pueblito as well as the long arms and eyes of the men who are looking for him in order to retrieve the stolen moolah.
Overall, Get the Gringo is a good film. Though I most assuredly do not agree with his political or cultural viewpoints, I can definitely say that his artistic skills have not diminished over the years. He’s just as on-top of things here as he was in his glorious pre-2000 days, and the overall story is just outrageous, wacky, and gritty enough to hold this crime thriller together just fine. Fox Home Entertainment brings us this cult classic in the making to Blu-ray and DVD with a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes tagged on. As the studio only opted to send me a check disc of the SD-DVD, I’m afraid I cannot comment on the A/V aspects of the title, but I’ll just leave it at this: Get the Gringo is better than I expected it to be.