Get the Gringo (US - BD RA)
Reviewer Jonathan hangs out with Mel Gibson in a Mexican prison community
Academy Award winner Mel Gibson steals the show - and anything else he can get his hands on - in this explosive, nonstop thrill ride packed with equal parts action and attitude. A career criminal (Gibson) pulls off the heist of a lifetime, but his getaway plans go south of the border when a high-speed car chase lands him in a hard-core Mexican prison community known as "El Pueblito." Now, in order to survive, he'll have to fend off corrupt cops, take down ruthless druglords...and team up with a streetwise ten-year-old who has a few secrets of his own. (From the Fox synopsis)
Get the Gringo opens very strongly with a car chase near the Mexican border. Two men in clown masks are fleeing from cops. The one in the backseat is bleeding internally and coughing up blood. The vehicles are kicking up huge clouds of dirt and money is flying everywhere. It's a thrilling way to kick-start things, picking up where most movies would be content with at their climax. The scene makes a couple of awkward pauses to allow for some wry narration, but it is still wholly compelling. Desperate, the driver (Gibson) decides to send the car flying through the wall and into Mexican territory, but only to find a group of crooked cops from south of the border waiting for him. They steal the money and put him in a prison community called El Pueblito, which the title character's narration appropriately describes as being like "the worst shopping mall ever". What ensues is a crime movie where violent characters, crooked police officers, drug lords and corrupt business men all intersect with one another, with bloody results. All this, while the main character stays in the margins, using his wits to take them out and turn the enemies on each other.
One of my favorite films is Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (later remade by Leone as A Fistful of Dollars). They're both classics that every cinephile must see. There's something extremely satisfying about seeing a smart, outrageously cool character play part in both sides of a conflict and pit enemies against each other. Get the Gringo's unnamed protagonist is more of a criminal and an anti-hero than Toshirô Mifune's Sanjuro character or Clint Eastwood's Joe, but they fit the same archetype. Get the Gringo is very much a western in spirit, with street shootouts, rival gangs and even a scene where Gibson gets to try out his Clint Eastwood impression. Say what you want about the current state of Gibson's public image, but the man's acting chops and screen presence haven't taken a hit. Though the overall screenplay is decent, Get the Gringo's weakest element is its script. It relies on a lot of clumsy, wry narration that is never as clever as it thinks it is. Yet, somehow, Gibson makes it work and turns an underdeveloped character into someone interesting and gripping to watch. He doesn't have the same presence as Eastwood or Mifune (and really, who does?), but he makes up for it with some goofiness and rascal charm. The dialogue is better when it takes place between "the gringo" and "the kid" (Kevin Hernandez). Their tough-love relationship is where the heart of the story lies. How the kid is involved in the grand scheme of things, I'll leave for you to discover. Hernandez is a promising young talent and holds his own in his scenes with Gibson surprisingly well. The rest of the supporting cast also does an excellent job. Daniel Giménez Cacho ( Cronos) is awesome as Javi, the criminal who essentially runs the place and has the police in his pocket. Dolores Heredia, who plays the kid's mother, brings a lot of grace and charm to the screen.
El Pueblito is very cool setting for a movie, and Get the Gringo benefits greatly from the distinct personality of the location. I've never seen anything quite like it in a movie. Gibson, who co-wrote the screenplay, was inspired by true stories of Mexican prisons where the laws are not so clearly defined and criminals are able to carry on business under the guise of being incarcerated. El Pueblito is a living breathing community, complete with small businesses and families that live with the prisoners. There's even luchador matches. I'm not sure how much truth there is to the way it is portrayed in the movie, but the absurdity of it all adds a magnetism to the proceedings. There is a shootout in the middle of the film that just feels silly, with lots of generic looking gunmen, slow motion gun play and excessive blood squibs. Yet even at its silliest, I found myself quite entertained. It is unfortunate that the film never got much of a theatrical release. Perhaps distributors were put off by Gibson's media reputation and the less-than-stellar box office performance of The Beaver. Yet I could easily see Get the Gringo having an audience. It would certainly have been successful if it had come out years ago. It evokes the earlier days of Gibson's career and would be right at home in a double feature with Payback. Fan's of Gibson's output should definitely give it their time.
Fox's 1080p transfer of the film is impressive. The film was shot on digital, using the Red One camera. Yet, strangely, it doesn't look as good as most films that use the technology. The image doesn't have quite the same level of depth, and motion looks blurrier than usual; making it very obvious that you're looking at a digital image. Personally, I feel that the 35mm format would've suited the gritty, western inspired setting of the movie much better. Detail is soft overall, but manages to look very sharp in unmoving close-ups (see the third screen cap). The movie uses stylistic contrast levels to give it a harsher look, yet black levels end up having more of a washed out, brown appearance thanks to the warm filters used. It doesn't resemble what I've come to expect from the Red camera. There are some occasional shots that were clearly shot on cheaper digital cameras with lower resolutions (it's possible they're just digitally zoomed in), and image quality expectedly takes a huge dip. These shots are few and far between though. Even though the artistic choices don't make for the best Blu-ray presentation, the transfer from Fox holds up well. I never noticed any instances of digital artefacts that didn't come from the source.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track gets to show off immediately in the opening car chase of the film. You can hear the cars moving from speaker to speaker, with loud revving engines taking over the LFE channel. There's an awesome shot of the car tumbling through the border, and the camera seems to crash right through the wall with it. The sound design team does an excellent of making the breakthrough sound just as cool as it looks. The shootout and raid sequences later in the film have plenty of gunfire and background noise permeating throughout the room. When there isn't action on the screen, the soundtrack takes over the front channels while you can often hear the chatter and scurrying of El Pueblito's residents making subtle noises in the rear channels. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand, but I have to say that I felt like the narration could've used some extra punch. Delivery is partly to blame, but it occasionally sounded soft and unenthusiastic when it was really in need of attitude. Overall the track is still really impressive, showcasing some great surround effects that immerse you in the weird world of El Pueblito.
Get the Gringo: A Look Inside (HD, 18:01) is an informative making-of feature that begins by covering the origins of the film. It was Gibson's idea, and he collaborated with his second unit from Apocalypto on the project, with his second unit director Adrian Grunberg making his directorial debut. Mel and the crew have nothing but nice things to say about working with each other. To my surprise, Grunberg admits to some weaknesses in the script which he says they worked on during the shoot, trying to capture the improvements the wanted in the moment. Grunberg talks about how Mel was very helpful while also giving him room to direct and do his own thing. They talk about working with a cast of talented Mexican actors that aren't well known in the rest of the world. This feature also covers some of the major sequences in the film like the street shootout and the opening car chase, which are given their own special feature segments on the disc. This is a concise and enjoyable extra that covers more ground than your average making-of.
On Set: The Car Chase (HD, 03:38) is an interesting approach. Rather than retread the crew's thoughts that were already laid out in the making-of, the camera simply observes the shooting process and the multiple takes that went into the scene. It's fun to watch the crew look at the footage they just shot and remark on how cool it turned out. On Set: The Showdown (HD, 04:10) and On Set: The Raid (HD, 03:44) follow the same pattern. It's a quick, cool look at how these sequences are put together. The only remaining feature is the "El Corrido del Gringo" Music Video (HD, 02:58), which just really isn't my kind of music, but is amusingly cut with scenes from the film.
Get the Gringo's fun energy, strong performances and an awesomely unique setting manage to overcome the shortcomings of its script. It's much better than its straight-to-video release would have you believe. Here is all the proof you need that Mel Gibson has still got it. Gibson's long time collaborator, Adrian Grunberg, demonstrates that he has what it takes to helm a project. I hope to see more efforts from the two of them in the future. It didn't get a theatrical release, but Fox has still given the film the full treatment for home entertainment with a strong AV presentation and some brief but cool extras.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 17th July 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Extras: Get the Gringo: A Look Inside, On Set: The Car Chase, On Set: The Showdown, On Set: The Raid, "El Corrido del Gringo" Music Video, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Cast: Mel Gibson, Dean Norris, Peter Stormare
Genre: Action, Comedy and Crime
Length: 96 minutes
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