I'll just come out and say it: in my opinion, 'Get the Gringo' marks Mel Gibson's true return to the action superstar we use to love and admire so long ago. Granted, there is 'Edge of Darkness' where we see several hints of the actor's former larger-than-life persona, but that mystery thriller isn't particularly good and it didn't really take full advantage of his talents. The Jodie Foster directed 'The Beaver' is better and offers more in terms of what Gibson can do in front of the camera, but there should be little doubt that those movies were basically stepping stones for getting on the better graces of moviegoers and hopefully drawing the public's attention away from the star's seemingly endless deluge of negative personal controversies.
'Get the Gringo,' which Gibson co-wrote with Stacy Perskie and the film's director Adrian Grunberg, offers some interesting fodder for trying to determine the current condition of his former A-list star status, since the producers, including the folks I just listed, opted for the strange move of releasing the film to video-on-demand services instead of going for a traditional theatrical premiere. The reasoning, according to Gibson, is that audiences are beginning to prefer watching movies in the comfort of their own homes. Of course, we could very easily dismiss his statements as an excuse for saving himself the humiliation of poor box-office returns, however, Gibson's explanation is actually a sentiment I personally find myself agreeing with, especially since the transition period between cinemas to home theaters appears to be shrinking with each passing year. Still, it's a shame we weren't given the opportunity for a big-screen exhibition, because the action drama is really quite enjoyable. Like I mentioned earlier, the Mel Gibson of old is back!
Here, he plays a career criminal referred to only as Gringo, a funnily disgruntled and cynical middle-aged man sent to a bizarre town-like Mexican prison by corrupt police officials who kept his duffel bags of millions. Not exactly high-concept material, except that the story does play out much like the standard revenge crime thriller. Only, the setting is extraordinarily unusual, which is part of the plot's brilliance. Audiences are given a tour of a strange facility where convicts can have their family, including school-age children, live with them inside. The warden has no power or control because the entire place is run by a highly dangerous crime boss (Daniel Giménez Cacho). With no means of escape, Gringo must hatch a plan not only to survive but also to get his money back.
Seeing him pull it off is much of the suspenseful fun, made all the better by Gibson's performance. I find voiceovers to be one of the corniest and laziest narrative devices used, but wouldn't you know it, the 'Lethal Weapon' star does a great job at it. Once we get over that minor hiccup, loyal Gibson fans will immediately recognize the sort of heavily-flawed character type he's remembered for, with unorthodox morals which the actor uses to wonderfully comical effect. Although Gringo falls on the ambiguous side of justice, Gibson makes him terrifically likeable, slowly exposing the character's redeemable qualities in his friendship with the ten-year-old Kid (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia). The subplot adds a touching bit of drama which doesn't feel forced or out of place, working instead as another driving force within the plot.
Most surprising of 'Get the Gringo' is that it's an easy throwaway crime drama with the potential to be quickly forgotten, but it's also wonderfully entertaining and fascinating as a revenge actioner with an unusual setting. It's oddly familiar and even typical in some respects, yet it brings a renewed interest in how the formula plays out, determined to reach the inevitable conclusion with magnificent energy, lots of heart and a terrific sense of humor. In other parts of the world, the film is known as "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," which is honestly a more fitting title than the weird 'Get Carter'esque reference we have now. It's better at expressing the film's finer qualities and funnier aspects, but in the end, Grunberg, who makes his directorial debut after years of working as second-unit and assistant director, delivers a gratifying piece of entertainment which demonstrates that Gibson can still charm his way through a movie, just like he used to.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment debuts 'Get the Gringo' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. The first is a Region A locked, BD50 disc while the second is DVD-9 copy of the movie with a downloadable Digital Copy. Both are housed on opposing panels inside a blue eco-vortex keepcase with a lightly textured slipcover. At startup, the disc commences with a series of skippable trailers before greeting viewers with the standard main menu options, full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The 'Gringo' gets chased on Blu-ray with a terrific AVC-encoded transfer taken directly from its digital source.
Shot on the Red One camera system, the picture can look a tad digital and sterile in some spots, but by and large, it has a decently pleasant film-like quality to it. This is largely thanks to the cinematography of Benoît Debie ('The Runaways,' 'Irreversible'), pushing the yellows and ambers to give the photography a hot weather feel. There's even a thinly-layered grain structure washing over the video that's consistent throughout. The stylized look does alter the rest of the color palette noticeably, but primaries remain bold and cleanly rendered. The same goes for contrast and brightness though not too severely, as whites appear bright and crisp providing for plenty of visibility. Blacks, on the other hand, could be stronger with slightly better shadow delineation.
All is forgiven, however, because the 2.40:1 framed ratio exhibits splendid details of the dingy prison, especially daylight sequences. Faces and costuming during close-ups, in particular, expose plenty of lifelike textures and grime on clothing. Gibson is really starting to show his age here. Of course, there are also a good number of softer shots to be seen, mostly in nighttime scenes and interiors, but it all seems to be part of the cinematography, adding to the image's cinematic quality.
'Get the Gringo' also arrives with an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack that's highly engaging and energetic.
Much of the runtime is spent in the fronts, being a somewhat character-driven movie with sudden spurts of action, but the soundstage is wonderfully wide and welcoming. The music and song selections do most of the work, exhibiting an expansive and detailed mid-range. Channel separation is well-balanced with lots of fluid movement and convincing off-screen effects. Dialogue is crisp and clear, never drowned out by all the other commotion, although there are a couple moments during the Spanish exchanges when voices sound a bit mumbled. The lossless mix offers lots of good, hearty low-frequency effects as well, mostly reserved for the music and the few scenes of explosions, providing some a decent punch to the action. Rear activity isn't particularly impressive, but atmospherics can be heard faintly in the background to enhance the soundfield with first-rate panning and top-notch directionality.
Special features are carried over with the day-and-date DVD.
Making his directorial debut, Adrian Grunberg delivers a wildly entertaining crime drama with plenty of action and humor in 'Get the Gringo.' Starring Mel Gibson as the titular character, the movie features one of the actor's best performances, reminiscent of the flawed, morally-ambiguous hero type fans thoroughly enjoyed during the height of his career. The Blu-ray arrives with a great audio and video presentation but a rather puny yet decent set of bonuses. Long-time Gibson fans will want to check this out. Recommended.