Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

IT’S fair to say one-time Sydney boy Mel Gib­son’s star hasn’t burned too brightly in quite some time, but the bloke is one hell of an ac­tor nonethe­less. Watch­ing Get the Gringo (Icon, $29.95), an old-school ac­tion flick of the sort Gib­son knows how to make stand­ing on his ear, one is re­minded just how far he can take the ca­per when he both­ers.

Ridicu­lous, im­plau­si­ble, oc­ca­sion­ally comic, bru­tally bloody and mostly a rat­tling good yarn, Get the Gringo car­ries a Gib­son co-writ­ing credit. That be­ing the case, he’ll also have to take the rap for mo­ments of pretty or­di­nary di­a­logue and a cou­ple of breaches of logic that just can’t be ex­plained. And if you make it right to the end, re­mind your­self that the line ‘‘Now, put it back’’ had been wait­ing ap­par­ently for­ever to be ut­tered.

That’s not a spoiler, by the way, at least not un­less your movie plot radar is ridicu­lously fine­tuned. It’s just that Mel, when asked to choose be­tween the ob­vi­ous and the nu­anced, will gen­er­ally not go for the lat­ter.

The story opens with Gib­son as a ca­reer crim­i­nal flee­ing US au­thor­i­ties in a high-speed car pur­suit, the con­sid­er­able pro­ceeds of a cash rob­bery keep­ing him com­pany up front while his side­kick man­ages a few fi­nal breaths in the back seat, a vic­tim of cop-in­flicted gun­shot wounds.

Cue first cheesy lines of the piece, with the off­sider plead­ing for a doc­tor and Gib­son re­ply­ing: ‘‘I’ll get you a vet, you sono­fabitch. You shoulda shot him first!’’ Both men are wear­ing clown faces. Gib­son’s char­ac­ter is named Driver. You get the pic­ture al­ready.

Gun­ning his car for the US-Mex­ico bor­der fence, Driver busts through to the other side where, once the lo­cal au­thor­i­ties spot the cash he’s car­ry­ing (it turns out to be a cool cou­ple of mil­lion, a fig­ure on which a rea­son­ably sig­nif­i­cant plot el­e­ment turns) they de­cide not to hand him back to Un­cle Sam.

In­stead, he’s sent to El Pueblito, the no­to­ri­ous jail-city that in real life closed down two decades ago but in its day was like a liv­ing, throb­bing or­gan­ism where only the fittest sur­vived. And even though hav­ing money can buy you a more pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence there’s no es­cap­ing the bru­tal­ity of the law on the inside.

Driver un­der­stands jail — he ex­plains to the 10-year-old lad he be­friends that he has been spend­ing time on the inside since he was 14 — and he even gets the Mex­i­can ver­sion of the slam­mer. Care­fully pick­ing his way through the vi­o­lent cul­ture that un­der­pins El Pueblito, he schemes to get him­self out of the place and back into some kind of nor­mal life. How nor­mal that turns out to be is not the like­li­est propo­si­tion here but it hardly mat­ters, re­ally.

There’s pre­dictable stylised vi­o­lence, some rea­son­ably ef­fec­tive wise­crack­ing, a more or less con­vinc­ing ro­man­tic story that emerges later in the piece and Gib­son gets to do the kind of char­ac­ter he may wish the world saw more of in him: the flawed but de­cent man who is com­fort­able with the bad choices he has made in life but will go with the good times for now.

This week

(MA15+) Icon (137min, $29.95)

(MA15+) Univer­sal Sony (166min, $29.95)

(MA15+) Pin­na­cle (99min, $29.95)

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