MOVIE BUFF-ET: ‘Gringo’ wrings boredom out of action-comedy premise

Amazon Studios

“Gringo” is a movie with an excellent cast but so little for them to work with in terms of script and motivation that it just falls hard and flat.

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The film opens with a promising setup as scumbag co-presidents of a pharmaceutical company, Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron), set up their stooge of an employee, Harold (David Oyelowo) to take the fall one way or the other for illegal activity conducted from the company’s production plant in Mexico.

That’s a premise that could work as an action movie or a comedy or even an action-comedy. However, no movie works well without a solid script and competent direction, and unfortunately “Gringo” lacks both.

The movie has a few interesting and even funny moments, particularly with Theron and Oyelowo, but they are stranded few and far between. Extraneous characters and scenes weighed down any momentum the film mustered, leaving me bored and disinterred before it meandered back to the main plot.

The film attempts to use a non-linear structure early, showing one scene from three different points of view, but it’s handled clumsily by director Nash Edgerton, who is Joel’s brother, offering confusion rather than insight. Wisely, the director abandoned further use of that device, but the film would have been cleaner if the earlier attempt had been edited out as well.

The movie is at its best when Oyelowo is on the lam from and then teams up with a bleeding-heart assassin, played by Sharlto Copely, but ultimately there is no meaningful payoff to that plot point, either.

The film is a messy misfire that’s ultimately not funny enough to pass as a comedy nor thrilling enough to cash in as an action flick.

(R) 1 hr. 51 min.
Grade: D

Classic Corner


The Malco Razorback will hold two showings of director Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday in celebration of the film’s 60th anniversary.

Ask several movie fans what their favorite Hitchcock film is, and you are likely to get any number of answers. There’s “Notorious,” “The Birds,” “Rear Window,” “Psycho,” “North by Northwest,” and a half dozen others, but no doubt “Vertigo” will be mentioned by some if not most.

There’s just something about the 1958 film that transfixes the viewer, drawing them into the whirlpool of obsession and anxiety that nearly drowns detective Scottie Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) in madness.

Scottie is a afraid of heights, and that fear is complicit in a tragic accident while on the job. Scottie retires from the police force out of remorse, but takes on a job tailing the beautiful wife of a friend that also ends in tragedy.

However, the plot only thickens here, as Stewart meets a woman named Judy Barton (Kim Novak) who reminds him of his friend’s wife.

The above isn’t the best description of the plot because I’ve tried not to spoil any of the spellbinding twists and curves that Hitchcock hurls at Stewart and the viewer. Besides no written description by me can match the tension, desire, and madness that Hitchcock captured on film. It’s truly an engrossing movie with a darkly frantic performance by Stewart that ranks among his best.

Novak is alluring, dangerous, and tragic as perhaps the best of Hitchcock’s icy blonde starlets. Again, it’s hard to write much more about her role without giving too much away.

Today, “Vertigo” is held in the highest esteem by critics. It has been hailed as the best American film as recently as 2012 by the British Film Institute’s “Sight and Sound” poll.

Ironically, the movie was not a critical or box-office success when it opened, only finding critical favor with a re-release in the late 1960s. However, that might be perfectly appropriate for a movie whose primary theme is lies and deceit.