Gibson in prison – Get the Gringo review

Get the Gringo – Starring Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, and Dean Norris. Directed by Adrian Grunberg. Rated MA. By Richard Haridy.

Any new Mel Gibson film these days comes loaded with the baggage of his widely publicised personal turmoil. The man is undoubtedly an unhinged mess of homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic proportions but we often forget that he is also an amazingly captivating screen presence. Those who miss the days of Gibson’s hardened movie characters will be in for a treat with Get the Gringo, a genuinely gritty, hard-boiled action-noir tale.

Opening with a kinetic car-chase featuring the best slow-motion shot of a clown spitting blood you’ll ever likely see, Get the Gringo catapults Gibson’s nameless character into a bizarre Mexican prison named “El Pueblito.” It resembles a post-apocalyptic squat, and is filled with dodgy guards, ‘smack shacks’ (where inmates buy and consume drugs), and is presided over by a robe-wearing, stylish gangster. Amidst the chaos of this astoundingly designed space, Gibson befriends a 10-year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez) who complicates his inevitable escape scheme.

Sharply directed by debut filmmaker Adrian Grunberg and magnificently shot by up and coming star cinematographer Benoit Debie (best known for working on Gaspar Noe‘s visionary pictures) Get the Gringo is dirty, uncompromised fun for fans of grimy, grindhouse  fare. Despite ultimately succumbing to a conventional final act that plays up the familiar redemptive anti-hero arc that Gibson seems fond of, for the most part this is easily the best thing our grizzled trouble-maker has done in well over a decade.

Originally titled How I Spent My Summer Vacation – a much more ironically apt title – what is most surprising about the film is that the insane prison featured is actually based on a real penitentiary located in Tijuana. It was shut down in 2002 after a couple thousand police officers raided what had become a bizarro shanty-town where prisoners lived with their families and guards were non-existent. Get the Gringo won’t alter your perception of Mel Gibson the man but those that yearn for the tough, psychopathic Gibson hero of Lethal Weapon, Payback, and Mad Max will have a ball with this authentically nasty little pulpy, B-movie packed with blood, guts, guns, and blacker than coal humour.

4/5

Get the Gringo arrives on DVD and Blu-ray in Australia October 10, 2012.

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