MOVIE REVIEW: Gringo nails the violence but not the humour
TWO AND A HALF STARS
Director: Nash Edgerton
Starring: Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo
Running time: 110 minutes
Verdict: Too much pulp friction
Stuntman-turned-director Nash Edgerton has razor sharp reflexes - it's part of the job description.
The action sequences in this violent crime caper are expertly choreographed.
When it comes to the human drama of the story, however, Edgerton's timing is uncharacteristically off.
As a consequence, much of the humour also falls flat.
On paper, Gringo, starring Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Thandie Newton and Edgerton's brother, Joel, ticks all the right boxes.
In a "meta" twist, the title character is actually a Nigerian-born everyman whose trusting good nature would mark him out as an outsider in almost any culture, not just Mexico where the film is set.
(According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the term gringo, while often applied to whitefellas, technically just means foreigner.)
Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) is a mild mannered, mid-level executive for a pharmaceuticals company that is run by his former college buddy, Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton), a wolf in sheep's clothing.
It's Harold's job to look after the day-to-day operations of the medical marijuana manufacturing operation Rusk and his hard-as-nails business partner and sometimes lover Elaine Markinson (Theron) have set up south of the border.
Unbeknown to him, the pair has been skimming money off the top of the business by selling a sizeable portion of their raw product to the local drug lord.
Since they are planning a lucrative merger, Rusk and Markinson need to clean up the books, pronto.
This means severing their ties with the ruthless, Beatles-obsessed crime boss known as Black Panther (Carlos Corona). This makes Harold an unwitting target for the drug kingpin's ire.
Although still blissfully unaware of his employers' underworld connections, Harold has cottoned on to the company's impending takeover, and the significant job cuts this will entail.
To even the score, he stages his own kidnap - a rash and impulsive act that sets into motion an escalating series of events.
Supporting players include Sharlto Copley's international mercenary-turned-foreign aid worker and Seyfried's sweet but clueless tourist, who has unwittingly accompanied her novice drug mule boyfriend (Harry Treadaway) on his inaugural trip.
But not even Gringo's impressive ensemble cast can breathe much life into these overblown but underwritten characters.
Oyelowo is easily the best thing about the film but he succeeds in making us root for his character almost despite his material.
Theron delivers a one-note performance as the vampish villainess - her heartless character really has no heart.
Edgerton's crooked businessman is similarly unconvincing.
Tonally, Gringo is aiming for an extreme, Tarantinoesque blend of violence and comedy, but since it fails to strike the right notes, the execution is more bog standard mean.
Gringo opens on Thursday.