The recently released and terrific studio comedy Game Night proved that comedies aren’t dead. Like Game Night, Gringo boasts and incredibly talented cast, and few of them rise above the poor script and muddled execution of the film. As she always does Charlize Theron is able to rise above her fellow cast mates which includes a miscast David Oyelowo in the lead, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton and Sharlto Copley. Gringo‘s shortcomings are many, but above all the flaws there’s one that is hard to get around, it just isn’t funny.
The story never catches steam in Gringo. Instead, there is a build up to an outcome that never really feels earned. The audience is kept in the dark for the most part, and the script just assumes you don’t want to get bogged down in the details. Gringo‘s excessively convoluted plot wears thin very quickly and simplistic sensibilities really bring it down either further. By the end of the film, because the characters are not likable at all, you really don’t care how it ends.
Gringo centers on Harold (Oyelowo) a mild-mannered, middle management type who is a push over. Working at a pharmaceutical company run by Elaine (Theron) and Richard (Edgerton), two ruthless business people who are terrible humans. Richard is an overly macho character who is having an affair with Harolds wife (Newton) all the while plotting to essentially run Harold out of their company. When the trio goes to Mexico, Harold becomes the target of a cartel, and Edgerton enlists his thinly written brother (Copley) to help rescue Harold. Eventually, the plot becomes much more contrived and sloppy than what I’m letting on.
Oyelowo has some decent comedic moments, but they are far and few between. Everything else the script gives the characters to do makes no sense, and the film becomes a chore to watch near the middle. As she always does, Theron is able to elevate her character above the underdevelopment to found at nearly every turn. But even so, all of the characters are so despicable, who really cares? Gringo relies too much on making Harold relatable, even he becomes an after thought. Harold is such a push over, and like the rest of the characters, has zero arc to speak of, it gets hard to root for him. Seyfried might as well have not even been in the film. A side plot involving her and her drug mule boyfriend are responsible for nothing you’ll remember once the film is over. In fact, it’s so useless, five years down the road when you’re flipping through channels and see this film, you’ll have totally forgotten she’s in it.
The film is directed by Joel Edgerton’s brother Nash, and for his first major directorial effort, there’s much to be desired in terms of style. The elder Edgerton brother brings no uniqueness to the way he sets up the films less than thrilling action sequences. Nash doesn’t seem to mind his actors, particularly his own brother, phoning in their performances either. Not every first time feature directing efforts have to be gold, by Edgerton doesn’t exactly bring the wow factor or desire to see what he does next.
It seems Hollywood is only allowed to release one or two good big studio comedies a year. In 2017, we had Girls Trip. While 2018 is still young, Gringo isn’t exactly a step in the right direction. While Game Night is a rarity in this day and age, Gringo is the norm. It does feature a timely subject matter. Yet, the structure of the film feels entirely of another generation of comedies. Regardless, no one era could make the film’s script any better. In reality, there isn’t anything completely abhorrent about the movie. Gringo is ultimately nearly two hours of a boring and unfunny comedy attempt, that never executes its premise.
Cast: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Sharlto Copley, Amanda Seyfried, Alan Ruck
Director: Nash Edgerton
Runtime: 110 minutes
Rated: R (for language throughout, violence and sexual content)