Gringo

Stars: 3/5

“Gringo” took me and its main character on a trip, though it was more unforgettable for him than me. From the first moment, we had a character to hate, and Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) did not disappoint. He’s a generous scoundrel, though that’s me also being generous.

There were two concurrent storylines that met, but not in a way that really justified both existing. While the story mainly follows Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) during his reverse “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” downward spiral, we also see Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) suffer through an unsatisfactory trip to Mexico while her minor scoundrel of a boyfriend obtains pills for a cartel.

I love Amanda Seyfried — I really do. She lights up my screen when I’m not expecting to see her, but the fact of the matter is all that Sunny and Butthead B-plot added to “Gringo” is about 20 minutes of extra runtime. Her brief interactions with Harold were sweet, but the movie could have ended the exact same way without them.

It’s a happy ending, which Harold has absolutely earned by the end of his two-hour misadventure. The whole time he just gets one bit of bad news after the other- and I mean the whole time. At minute five, we already know he’s the reason the old “easy come, easy go” adage exists. More easy go, though. He’s trying, but nothing he does is good enough for anyone.

At the heart of nearly all of Harold’s misfortune is his best friend Richard, who he trusts absolutely. This is the good ole “U.S. of A,” so I think you know how narratives centered around people who treat that trust. This still being that same “U.S. of A,” corporations and the people who run them must be “oh-so-sexy,” and the big bosses always get what they want. Business people are exactly as terrible as we think they are, and it barely matters.

Did I mention the big boss’ sidekick is a femme fatale who uses sex to swindle her way into what she wants? Charlize Theron plays the part well, and pretty aggressively to boot. I’ve seen her play evil too many times not to be intimidated when she looks at me through the screen while I’m minding my own business. This was absolutely no exception, never mind how ruthlessly efficient she is during the film. It’s still a tired trope though, and a great actress can’t change that.

“Gringo” had an atmosphere. It was a dark comedy, and there was certainly a bit more dark than comedy. You’d think the current cultural hard-on for neon wouldn’t be too prevalent in some random Amazon film, and you’d be absolutely incorrect. I’m not tired of it yet, but by the time I am, we’ll have enough screengrabs with cyberpunk noir vibes to build an entirely new film from it.

Overall, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the ride. It was full of wild twists, and it got me to exclaim things incredulously as I watched alone, which we all know is worse than saying nothing at all. It’s not a must-watch, but if you’re hanging out with some folks and need something to get the conversation going, this is a good option.

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