Movie Review: Gringo

Gringo is an ensemble comedy crime caper from Nash Edgerton, a stunt co-ordinator turned director from Australia. What does a stunt man know about directing you may ask… especially comedy? Well, Edgerton has directed four music videos for Bob Dylan and made his directorial debut with neo-noir thriller, The Square, in 2008. With a number of short film credits to his name, he’s not fresh out of the starting gates and being related to rising Hollywood star, Joel Edgerton, doesn’t hurt his case either. Especially when Joel agrees to co-star in his latest venture, an Amazon Original comedy, named Gringo – not to be confused with the Mel Gibson flick, Get the Gringo.

Gringo follows a businessman, who struggles for survival after he crosses the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal. While positioned as the story’s kingpin, it’s a team effort, which pulls the narrative in all sorts of directions to accommodate the impressive cast.

The first thing one will appreciate about Gringo is the amazing line-up featuring: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Sharlto Copley, Amanda Seyfried and Thandie Newton. South Africa’s very own Sharlto Copley and Charlize Theron appearing in the same film will certainly instill a desire to see this film, which features many uncharacteristic performances from a stellar cast. Copley is a “mercenary Jesus”, not unlike some of his previous roles, but veering into the troubled humanitarian terrain of a former contract killer. He’s got his usual sparkle, reiterating the playful tone of Gringo like a self-appointed mascot. He’s not the only one having a good time, testament to Theron’s flamboyant “poodle shark” character, whose mix of bad attitude and neediness are always entertaining.

The high caliber cast is a definite draw card, allowing each of the name stars to go for something unusual and spicier even. David Oyelowo is hilarious as a high strung Nigerian man, trading is drama chops for the role of a number-cruncher who discovers he’s got nothing to lose. Joel Edgerton is a stereotypical American business jock, having the smirk down, he parades it like a self-aware jackass – also a welcome deviation for him. Thandie Newton tries something new on for size, while Amanda Seyfried probably has the least impact as the softest banana of the bunch.

“I’m drop dead gorgeous, get over it…”

The brazen mix of characters creates a wonderful space for comedy moving between American office space and Mexican motels. While it boasts an all-star cast, there’s a low budget and minimalist feel to the production, which sometimes feels a few details short of reality. The tone is predominantly off-the-wall, generating some laugh-out-loud moments and good surprises with plenty of colourful dialogue. There’s an experimental edge to Gringo. The story almost moves by association as drug cartels and insurance scams merge, losing the premise in the cracks. Gringo’s wacky sense of humour and bursts of violence make it entertaining and enjoyable, despite being off-kilter and easily sidetracked.

The quality of the cast, devil-may-care attitude of the characters, madcap tone and unpredictable atmosphere give the caper a fresh spin, retaining familiar genre elements. While somewhat alleviated by the stellar lineup, the production has a low budget feel to it and also struggles to connect the dots when it comes to the narrative. There’s plenty of fun to be had if you enjoy capers and the star quality smooths many of the rough edges, but this is one zippy film that probably won’t haunt you for days to come.

The bottom line: Kooky