Gringo

 

            This is one of those fast-paced plot twisters with rapid-fire dialogue, where the characters all have the unexpected happen to them.  The difference is in how they handle it.

            Harold (David Oyelowo) is the kind of guy we like, because he's kind to his lovely wife, Bonnie (Thandie Newton), and he sings along with the radio on the way to work.  Though his financial advisor has informed him that his wife's expensive tastes have impoverished him, he's recluctant to confront her about it, because he loves her, and he wants to provide for her.  He's so diligent that he braves the snowstorm out of loyalty to his boss, Richard (Joel Edgerton), who's so confident he swaggers, presumably to inspire confidence in others around him.  But we soon learn that he's condescending to his receptionist, carrying on with an associate, Elaine (Charlize Theron), and also dallying with Bonnie.

            Well, the double-crossing two-timing was bound to come to light, and it does, and not happily. But it gets worse.  It seems Richard's company is attempting to produce a marijuana pill that will have the same effect, but without the messy tobacco-burning.  The plant is in Mexico, where Richard and Elaine go with Harold to insure that all is in readiness for production.  Then Harold learns that Richard is actually planning to sell the company, and Harold is not in the post-merger plans.  He also learns that his wife is cheating on him with his boss.  So he concocts a little scheme to pretend he's been kidnapped, to tap into the insurance policy that the company has secured for its executives while working in Mexico.  Except his boss didn't tell him that the premiums weren't paid.

            The plant in Mexico was supplying a cartel, and when Richard and Elaine inform the plant supervisor that all that has to stop, because of the audit preceding the sale, the supervisor tries to tell them that it's not that easy to cancel the cartel's supply.

            Meanwhile, a couple of American tourists, Miles (Harry Treadaway) and Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) are vacationing in Mexico, staying at the same hotel as Harold.  Miles isn't telling Sunny that he's really there for a small business transaction---you guessed it, a drug deal.  And then, just to add another combustible element, we have Richard's brother, who's an almost-reformed former covert operative thinking that now he should labor in obscurity for a really needy charitable cause, until his brother asks for his unique kind of help.

            This is a hard-edged kind of adventure/comedy, with plenty of innuendo, but really, we're too busy trying to survive to develop any real romance.  It's not exactly a morality tale—the good guys don't always win, and the bad ones don't always receive their just desserts---but at least innocence is rewarded.  There's a great theological/biblical discussion in the midst of the carnage, complete with the kind of expletives that wouldn't ordinarily accompany such a dialogue, but that's part of the incongruity humor.

            It's not for everybody.  And “action comedy” is difficult to sustain.  But it's just quirky enough to be a “niche” movie for the more adventurous adult audience.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association