The film has no spark, no fizz as it follows a hapless Chicago executive (David Oyelowo) who finds himself cast adrift in Mexico, betrayed by his bosses and pursued by narcoterrorists. Rating: 1 star out of 4.
There’s a word for “Gringo”: “slackluster.” I made it up.
“Gringo” has no spark, no fizz. Its scenes sag like overstretched taffy. Flavorless taffy.
It’s got good people in it: David Oyelowo (who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma”), Joel Edgerton (“Loving”), Charlize Theron (Imperator Furiosa, anyone?). All of them seem to be giving it their least.
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I’d say you could thank director Nash Edgerton (Joel’s brother) for that. There’s no sense of the actors being pushed to dig deep into their characters. Then again, there isn’t much depth there to dig for. You can thank screenwriters Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone for that.
The people in the picture, with a single exception, are terrible individuals. Oyelowo’s character, Harold, is a midlevel executive in a big Chicago pharmaceutical company who is about to get canned by his supposed best buddy (Edgerton) and dumped by his wife (Thandie Newton). He responds with much long-distance self-pitying whining. The distance comes from his having been dispatched to Mexico by his firm prior to his dumping. He fabricates a half-baked plan to fake his abduction by narcoterrorists to extort money from his soon-to-be former firm. Then real narcoterrorists enter the picture, and the woe-is-me element is cranked to the max.
Despite Harold’s predicament, he is not a sympathetic figure. Far less sympathetic is Edgerton’s backstabbing boss, a fellow with the personality of a bowl of oatmeal. Even less appealing is his partner in executive treachery (and lover), played by Theron as a snappish hypersexualized harpy who the screenwriters have seen fit to saddle with dialogue larded with profanity seemingly for profanity’s sole smutty sake. Can you say one-note performance?
The only character possessing any warmth is a young woman named Sunny, played by Amanda Seyfried with wide-eyed, uh, sunniness. (Subtlety is not in the writers’ vocabulary.) She’s part of a subplot that lends little to the movie other than unnecessary length, though she does offer Harold some sunny sympathy and serves as a sounding board for his laments about how life has done him dirty.
Scenes are shapeless and punchless. Even the inevitable shootouts and car chases seem listless.
Oh, did I mention this is supposed to be a dark comedy?
Funny it’s not.
★ “Gringo,” with David Oyelowo, Joel Edgerton, Charlize Theron, Thandie Newton, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley. Directed by Nash Edgerton, from a screenplay by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone. 110 minutes. Rated R for language throughout, violence and sexual content. Several theaters.