Mel Gibson is known as Driver in Get the Gringo, although it should be noted there’s no relationship to Driver in Ryan Gosling’s Drive. Apparently there’s a lot of people who wander around calling themselves Driver these days. There’s driving either way, Gringo kicking off with an energetic border chase, Gibson introduced with a clown mask on. Maybe there’s a hint of his personal life there, but whatever.
Driver is a little off kilter, a career criminal now shoved into a Mexican prison with all of life’s specialties after that car chase fails to go his way. Drugs, convenience stores, sex camps, an economy… the usual. Driver is befriended by a tough little one known as Kid (Kevin Hernandez) who carries a hankering for cigarettes.
Kid holds a secret, or rather an internal organ, of value to someone within the camp. Driver’s value lies in the money that was confiscated when he was captured by low rent, corrupt cops. The two have something in common, the unlikely duo perfect fodder for what appears simple before the narrative crumbles a bit in the third act.
The key here is entirely likeability, Gibson’s sarcastic wit and intelligent charm – always a step ahead of the game – makes for an anti-hero worth rooting for. His character shifts from a wise isolationist to a impromptu father figure and husband, or as much as the latter as he can be within the rundown prison walls.
Ultra violence splatters onto the screen from the opening sequence, Driver’s unfortunate partner (unnamed, so we’ll call him “Passenger”) internally spurting blood towards the camera, almost as if the piece was meant for exploitative 3D. Shoot-outs carry a mean streak that puts women and children in the line of bullets, squibs busted open almost gleefully in front of the camera, even in slow motion. Even physical assaults, again with women and children on the receiving end, are deployed for an emotional response. Gringo gets one.
Through the web of corruption, even from US Consulates, Gibson is able to extract his revenge. Violence is so ridiculous as to be over-the-top, but no one here is undeserving. It says something when the international money thief is the cleanest one involved. Gringo isn’t always clear with its intentions, characters shimmied into the script at will for necessary deletion, but it’s still a blast to watch.
Gringo takes its time, this despite a certain temptation to rush into the hairier elements. Quirky and broody, it’s a role Gibson fits into, and playing off a superior child actor like Hernandez, the duo can own the screen on their terms. There’s no necessity for action when you can rely on the cast in this capacity.
Get the Gringo is a crowd pleaser, assuming of course said crowd is composed entirely of videophile types. Drenched in warm hues, interiors will drown out most shades, but the rest is fitted with a dazzling array of bright, vibrant primaries. Colors flow from the screen with a depth and intensity that only serves to detract from the grimy conditions until you realize you’re looking at colored garbage bags. Clothing is bright and flesh tones are scorched with little detriment to the piece.
There’s also celebration for outstanding definition, close-ups rife with texture and high fidelity detail. The fun doesn’t stop here. Consistency is key, and even with a little distance from the lens, Gringo doesn’t lose a natural allure. The digital source, nor the AVC encode for that matter, holds firm without appearing flattened. A minor round of noise or two are entirely forgettable, giving the movie a light grit.
What’s odd and immediately apparent is excessive smearing. Light or fast motion will glaze the screen in after effects that are distracting and unclear. The problem is constant, and with what appears to be a heightened frame rate, somewhat odd. The issue in question is a cut above standard motion blur, but a breakdown of the image that makes keeping a simple focus difficult. Someone turning their head is enough to smother the piece in mush.
Most will find it tolerable though, probably no worse than usual, but it’s definitely a distraction for some. The rest of the issues, namely a little aliasing and a shot or two where the otherwise sound black levels lose punch, are all collateral damage. You can’t take much away from a disc like this that only commits one flagrant foul that most will adjust to or not notice at all.
The DTS-HD mix included here is meant to generate some pizazz from the opening scene, car engines rumbling in the LFE channel while debris, dust, and the vehicles themselves pan front to back. It’s a nice mix of energy in an action scene designed to draw the viewer in. It closes on a crash that has all of the qualities the listener is undoubtedly looking for, with great, clean highs from screeching/crunching metal, and a thud as gravity takes over.
Most of the film is spent with ambiance, the overcrowding of the prison system swelling up into the rears and stereos without any harm to the center channel dialogue. The center is where dialogue stays too, even with the opportunity to branch out slightly.
Things will find a zone in the third act, including a courtyard shoot-out with bullets penetrating walls, makeshift homes, and even panicked people. That gives way to more frantic gun firing during a prison raid with open air design capturing the echo of fired shots along with the tightness of rounds set off indoors. A couple of grenade explosions are like icing on a cake, assuming one likes their cake layered with splattered human organs. Yeah, it’s pretty violent at times.
A Look Inside is the first featurette, an 18-minute dive into the production from conception through completion. Three “On Set” featurettes take a look at each of the major action scenes, splicing raw footage from the set, completed footage, and planning together in mash-ups that are wonderfully interesting, certainly miles ahead of the usual talking heads. The disc completes with a music video.
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