The Gringo (2018)
Directed by: Nash Edgerton | 111 minutes | action, comedy | Actors: Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Bashir Salahuddin, Glenn Kubota, Melonie Diaz, Amanda Seyfried, Harry Treadaway, Theo Taplitz, Paris Jackson, Yul Vazquez, Hernán Mendoza, Hector Kotsifakis
You have those films that seem hilarious or at least quirky on paper, but where almost nothing comes out of the picture. You guessed it: ‘The Gringo’ is such a movie. The crime story about heartless businessman Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) who, along with his partner Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron), tries to force their dopey employee Harold (David Oyelowo) out, after which he devises a plan to get them back, is surprisingly toothless and little exciting. Yes, there are some gruesome criminals and people are murdered without mercy, but hardly any storyline has a satisfying suspense. Now you can say that it is mainly about the humor, but you unfortunately also have to look for successful comic scenes with a light.
It’s also a waste of money spent on several big stars. Based on the presence of Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried and especially Charlize Theron you would expect that there is some quality to be seen, but that is disappointing. Theron knows how to handle almost every role, but she doesn’t seem to be able to do much with comedy. (But maybe it’s the character, in a few episodes of the ‘Arrested Development’ series it went pretty well.) It’s not fishy here. As a femme fatale, she is too flat in her approach and her storyline lacks substance; and as a comic character she is too indifferent and obnoxious.
Joel Edgerton is not bad in the role of calculating, unsympathetic and racist businessman, but he too has too little to work with. Actually, only David Oyelowo, who killed Martin Luther King Jr. played in ‘Selma’, still regularly hitting the right chord in his sympathetic underdog role. But even he can’t save the movie.
The scene in which we see Harold very decisively trying to make his bosses cough up money by staging his own kidnapping is fun, clumsy and hysterical and is one of the few scenes that achieves the tone that the film as a whole seems to want to aspire to. : comical, wacky, and a little dangerous. Sharlto Copley, who we know from the original ‘District 9’, also manages to operate on the same wavelength as Oyelowo and their scenes together have an attractive energy.
Furthermore, ‘The Gringo’ is really just a boring sit. Just when you think an exciting, juicy, comical, tantalizing storyline is coming, it breaks down just when it gets interesting. Elaine trying to convince her “charms” business partners whether the explosive love triangle that develops between her, Richard and his other mistress are all just teasing. But also the development of a cannabis pill or the business that has to be done with life-threatening criminals (especially the ‘black panther’) is hardly involved. Almost everything is foreplay with no satisfactory consequence or ending. And if the individual scenes and characters often leave something to be desired, there is too little for the viewer to hold on to.