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Gringo (David Oyelowo/Charlize Theron) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

STAR power and the occasional good twist elevate black comedy thriller Gringo above the mundane – but only just.

Nash Edgerton’s film is otherwise a frustratingly inconsistent effort; the type of offering that shows flashes of genuine quality, only to undermine them with some baffling creative choices. David Oyelowo heads a star studded ensemble as Nigerian-American businessman Harold Soyinka, a decent guy trying to live life by the rules, only to find himself screwed over at every turn.

His boss and so-called friend, Richard Rusk (Nash’s brother, Joel), is not only having an affair with his wife (Thandie Newton) but is also conspiring to sell him down the river with his business. When Harold begins to suspect foul play while on his latest business trip to Mexico, he hatches a plan to put himself ahead of the game for a change.

But his plan quickly goes awry and it’s not long before a Mexican cartel boss, Rusk’s unscrupulous [and promiscuous] partner (Charlize Theron) and a former mercenary turned aid worker (Sharlto Copley) are on his trail.

Edgerton’s film strives for the kind of dark comedy that is a staple of the Coens with a little Midnight Run almost thrown in. But while there are moments that impress and amuse, Gringo never quite manages to sustain its momentum.

Some of this is down to lethargic pacing, some down to inconsistency of tone. But the writing also falls short on too many occasions. The film sometimes strives too hard for the quirky outrageousness it aspires to, while also shying away from the political points it so obviously wants to make.

The tone, meanwhile, veers unevenly from non-PC comedy to emotional drama via the odd, occasional abhorrent act of violence, which feels unnecessary.

If that weren’t enough, Gringo is also straddled with at least two too many characters, with a sub-plot involving two tourists – played by Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway – completely superfluous.

That it works at all is largely down to the leads, who work overtime. Hence, as despicable as Edgerton and Theron are, they give it their all in playing it so. Theron, especially, relishes the opportunity to play a completely manipulative Uber bitch.

Oyelowo, meanwhile, acquits himself well as the hapless hero, displaying some nice comedic chops and the odd moment of personal pain, meaning that you do root for him. While Copley enlivens the film whenever he is on-screen and works really well off Oyelowo. Gringo could have benefited from more scenes between the two of them.

Edgerton, for his part, tosses in a few well executed set pieces (befitting his background as a stuntman) and even manages a couple of surprises. But his film never leaves the lasting impression you feel it should given the quality of everyone involved. Gringo therefore rates as a missed opportunity, albeit one that does still entertain.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 1hr 50mins
UK Release Date: March 9, 2018