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Get the Gringo

Get the Gringo

Crazy, I'm crazy for feeling so lonesome, crazy
for feeling so blue

dir: Adrian Grunberg

Mel Gibson still makes movies? After all that, you know, unpleasantness?

Apparently so. Some people you just can’t stop without silver bullets.

Like cockroaches, the thermonuclear detonation directly above their lives, self-triggered, doesn’t stop them from scuttling ever onwards. He’s completely out of the closet in terms of his hatred and paranoia towards the members of the tribes of Abraham, and has even more runs on the board as a violent misogynistic fuckhead who would beat up a woman holding his own baby.

Clearly nothing, no level of opprobrium or societal disinterest in what else he may have to say will ever stop him.

Ideally, Leni Riefenstahl would be directing this movie, and it would star Mel Gibson, Dominique Strauss-Khan and Charlie Sheen, who would spend their time alternately screaming at and beating up Jewish Russian models, who are just happy to get some attention. Screenwriter of Showgirls and Basic Instinct Joe Eszterhas and fascist poet Ezra Pound would finish the script, David Irving would do the production design, Albert Speer would build the sets, Idi Amin provides the catering, and Wagner would do the soundtrack. The perfect storm of cinematic awesomeness.

All scum, all talented at something at some distant point in the past, all unworthy of our current, continued attention. That being said, if we only spent time watching the films and discussing the merits of the ‘worthy’ people in the cinematic arts, it’d be a short conversation. The cinemas would be empty. Shelves would be bare. The internet wouldn’t know what to do with itself.

A good friend of mine pointed out that Mel Gibson didn’t just recently lose his fight with sanity because of booze and the Russians and the Global Jewish Conspiracy: he was always like this, but people didn’t care because he was on top of the world, ma, and was a good little earner. He was clearly like this even before he made that supreme piece of Jew-baiting, being The Passion of the Christ, where Christ himself was turned into tenderised beef by the Jews for our pious pleasure.

That mad gleam was always in his eye: we just chose to believe it was method acting.

It’s not. He’s mad as a cut snake, but we’re not here to do psych evaluations. The question before you, which means it was the question I put before myself, is whether or not a person can watch and review a film by this guy notoriously on the outs with decent society, in good conscience?

Can I review this without referring to his many other instances of bad behaviour, in the way that can I justify watching a film by convicted rapist (who’s never served his jail term) Roman Polanski?

Clearly, I can, but I do so with some discomfort. I’ve listened, unintentionally, to some of the recordings Mel gifted the world with, where he is clearly a hateful, paranoid, racist, nutty motherfucker who is a danger especially to any of the women around him. So it's not like I'm being delusional.

I don’t care, though. I mean, I care, in that I wish he wasn’t like that, and didn’t do or say the things he did, but they’re not anything I can change. I don’t have the power to do that (yet). As with any of the other awful shit actors and directors get up to, I just care whether their movies are entertaining or not.

And, just to make myself seem worse than appeasers and enablers throughout history for the moment, I enjoyed this flick.

It’s impossible to watch it without thinking about all and sundry, but it’s an enjoyable crime caper all the same. It’s also mostly all Mad Mel’s work, since he wrote it and stars as the lead. He’s making movies just for himself now, to have something to watch on those lonely, cold Saturday nights.

The original title was How I Spent My Summer Vacation, but Get the Gringo is just as apt. Gibson plays a career criminal who ends up in a very strange Mexican prison, and just wants to get out, and to get the money he’s owed. It’s less about revenge for once than it is about gettin’ paid. Long time Mel watchers could guess that there’s some similarity between the plot here and Payback, his okay remake of the superior Point Blank.

Why is Point Blank superior? Well, for one thing, on Mel’s best day back when he had some sanity and more style, he never got within a million light years of being as cool as Lee Marvin. Never, ever happened, and it never will. Not with that attitude. Not even if he beats up a hundred Angie Dickinsons.

The prison he’s in, called El Pueblito, is based on a prison that used to exist until 2002, when it was forcibly shut down. It takes a bit of getting used to for the viewer, wrapping our heads around the concept. The prison is essentially a town surrounded by sniper towers, where whole families live together, where prisoners carry guns if they feel like it, and where the richest, most connected prisoner is more powerful than El Presidente of Mexico.

There are even children running around in the prison. I guess there are worse places to live in Mexico, but this flick makes it look almost salt-of-the-earth wholesome. And convenient, too.

We, those of us who’ve never been to Mexico and never will, see depictions of its corruption in films like this and think, “nah, it can’t be that bad”. We read stacks of articles, though, pointing to 12,000 or so people being murdered last year as part of the ongoing war between the drug cartels and the Mexican government, and then it doesn’t seem that far fetched. Since some of the cartels (like Los Zetas) are made up mostly of former members of the army or the government, it’s hard to keep track of what’s realistic and what’s far fetched, even for Mexico.

This isn’t a sociological study as to the impact of the war on crime or the long term effects of Mexican food on the human anus: it’s a kick-ass crime flick about someone in a very shaky position doing whatever needs to be done to survive, save the people around him, and make off like an oil baron when the dust settles.

Mel’s character is nameless, but let’s just think of him as Mel. He’s a career criminal who nonetheless starts to care about one of the children in the prison. Let’s call him The Kid (Kevin Hernandez), because it’s not going to matter anyway. His purpose is to get Mel to care about someone other than himself, in the classic cinematic redemption plot device of hardened criminal + likable kid = awwwwww - he’s not a monster anymore!

His scenes with The Kid, and then with his mother (Dolores Heredia) are pretty enjoyable. I don’t know if they’re believable, as in, that they could happen on this earth, but they look like the moments shared by human beings in bizarre circumstances.

Mel quietly surveys the lay of the land in El Pueblito, figuring out for himself how to get some money, who the players are, and how to stay out of trouble. It’s a testament to the art of observation, of keeping quiet and listening. Since this is a prison, though, with women and children running around (I can’t remember any other kids other than The Kid, who smokes in such a cool fashion whenever he can).

A lot of Mel’s thinking comes across in voiceover, if not constantly in the early part of the film. He tries, both in the writing and the delivery, to sound a lot like an Elmore Leonard character. Until I looked it up I was convinced that the flick must have been based on a Leonard book or equivalent. Turns out it’s just an entertaining, but not identical copy.

The story isn’t all tacos and cervezas, however. Mel has to mix things up with some pretty violent behaviour, which I’m sure he had a ball filming. There are a lot of scenes of him running, as if to prove he’s not over the hill yet. Sure, he’s starting to look like a scary Muppet made of leather, but he can still move. Also, he probably loved the fact that Mexico is a place where he can find extras he can beat up and shoot for real as long as the money is right.

The action scenes are surprisingly well done, culminating in a strangely convoluted (in that it involves Mel having to pretend to be multiple people including Clint Eastwood on the phone to someone, which is a pretty funny scene) hit on a rival criminal. There are also shoot outs in the prison which are well realised in a somewhat old-school way.

Am I astounded that Mel can put together a pretty decent violent action scene?

I am not. As my dear Canadian friend Chris once told me over beers, that's what it's like in Mel's head 24/7.

As such, Mel manages to deliver a flick that alternates between being pretty funny, utterly implausible, and graphically violent, something which shouldn’t come across as a surprise to anyone watching his flicks over the last thirty years. There’s no obvious racism on display, nothing about the Jews or about women, and even most of the nastiest characters don’t come across as demonised racial stereotypes. That’s not to imply that they’re well rounded characters (none of them are), but they’re not stand-ins for anti-immigrant or anti-Mexican propaganda, which is the first thought I had when I heard about the flick.

And no, I’m not disappointed that such crap isn’t on display.

I found it pretty enjoyable. I laughed, I was entertained, the action was pretty well done, and whether the flick makes any real-world sense or not is irrelevant. The flick would probably never have come to anyone’s attention had anyone but Mel been in it, but then it would never have been made. With Mel embodying this character and carrying the flick it comes across as a snappy, breezy, energetic endeavour even with its fairly ugly subject matter (as in, the potential harvesting of a child’s organs to keep the crime lord alive).

But it’s impossible to watch it without looking into those blue eyes of Mel’s and wondering whether you can catch glimpses of the raging craziness that he carries around with him. All the cinematic redemption in the world isn’t going to change what has gone before. So the score I give in this review shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement of Mel or the flick, because there’s no justification possible for that. It’s enough to know this film exists, and that Mel will continue on, making the movies he wants to, until Mossad takes him down in a hail of silver bullets.

It’s the only way to be sure.

7 times Mel playing a character who befriends a child in a Mexican prison is not even the worst thing Mel’s ever done or thought up in his life out of 10

“And ladies, don’t go easy on him.” – Get the Gringo.