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.
(MA15+) Icon (137min, $29.95)
(MA15+) Universal Sony (166min, $29.95)
(MA15+) Pinnacle (99min, $29.95)