Very little is more frustrating than walking out of a movie which doesn’t live up to high expectations. Gringo is a film which should work on paper. There is a potentially interesting premise, a fun marketing campaign, and an absolutely stellar cast making the film stand out in pre-release marking. Unfortunately, once release rolled around, the comedic crime thriller crumbled under the weight of expectations. How does a film go so wrong, so fast?
Gringo follows businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) as he travels to Mexico with his pharmaceutical co-workers Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron). However, their seemingly straight forward business deal is made incomprehensibly more complicated when a drug dealer gets involved. The film is directed by Nash Edgerton from a script by Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis.
Probably the biggest strength (and in turn the biggest disappointment) is the movie’s stellar cast. Gringo brings a impressive troop of A-listers, including Oyelowo, Theron, Edgerton and a criminally underutilized Amanda Seyfried. Gringo gives the performers space and the ability to explore comedic material, which these particular actors rarely get the chance to play with. Oyelowo shows absolutely stellar comedic chops, comepletely slaying his role. Here’s hoping we see him tackle more comedic roles in the future. Ditto for Theron, who takes her character to some dark and interesting places. She never backs down from a character and sells the heck out of her part. Finally, Edgerton also steps forward with impressive comedic timing, absolutely shining in the increased workload of the comedy.
However, Gringo is primarily a case of missed potential. There is so much on screen which should be good. The cast on screen is amazingly talented, and it looks genuinely funny. Unfortunately, the rest of the film falls monumentally flat.
Most frustrating is Gringo’s struggles with narrative pacing. The movie is best described as a dark comedy, but the disjointed sequences, thinly structured plots and lack of action really stretches out the story. While the movie clocks in at a standard 110 minutes, it when all is said and done, it feels more like three hours. Gringo is a long and tired slog.
The script is plaugued with difficulties. The narrative details throughout the movie are kept to a minimum. This ranges from plot points to character names. It isn’t until late in the second act when the script actually bothers to name Amanda Seyfreid’s character. In fact, “guitar store Barbie”, as her character is called, has so little depth or purpose, it is difficult to ascertain why she’s even in the narrative. Sadly, even an actress as skilled as Seyfried isn’t able to inject much into the shallow husk of a character.
Another character who seems wasted is Harold’s wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton). While Newton beings some fun flourishes, the woman is ultimately just Harold’s wife. We barely hear her name, and besides her fondness for spending Harold’s money we are only told that she was once overweight (a “fatty” as the film calls her). This is a tragically poorly structured take on the character, and a waste of an incredibly talented actress.
Ultimately, Gringo is a case of missed potential. The cast is absolutely stunning, and is very much a selling point for this movie. However, beyond the impressive list of performers, there is very little below the surface. Ultimately, the film is marred by a less than stellar script and sub-par direction. Give this one a skip.
Gringo is playing in theaters around the country now.