Twisty-turny comedies have become something of a trend, and that can only be a good thing. Most of them struggle moving in one direction – never mind many – and the recent film Game Night proved a comedy plot could scatter around without giving up the laughs. In the second feature from stunt performer-turned-director Nash Edgerton, Gringo is even more ambitious in its numerous twists and turns.
Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) is in middle-management at Promethium, a large, Chicago-based pharmaceutical company. On the behalf of white capitalist co-founder Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and his foul-mouthed colleague Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron), Harold makes regular trips to Mexico to keep tabs on the company’s suppliers. Richard and Elaine are developing a cannabis-based pill to take over the market once the drug is legalised. This is stuttered once Harold’s latest trip to Mexico escalates into danger, drugs and glorious confusion.
The screenplay by Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis is convoluted fun, introducing several characters like they’re dealing out poker hands. It is a little too much at times, especially when the film tries to be serious, but Stone and Tambakis ensure that none of the characters are throwaways. Each have their own unique and amusing personalities, and the viewer looks forward to their re-appearances. Gringo is clearly inspired by the lighter Tarantino movies as well as Breaking Bad, but can’t match their balance between humour and drama. It’s sometimes hard to judge what’s meant to be serious and what’s meant to be funny.
There’s also a clear desperation to make detestable characters likeable. Elaine Markinson is often horribly funny, but the film tries to generate an emotional sympathy with her. Theron does her best, but never persuades the audience to feel anything but contempt for that character. Even the dark comedy stemming from her and Richard Rusk, satirically reminiscent of South Park, becomes rather repetitive – often relying on their absence of ethics and politically incorrect speeches. Their characters are not as edgy and hilarious as the movie wants them to be.
Gringo is fun, often funny, and quite exciting to watch – but the script should’ve been tighter. 110 minutes is pushing it for an American comedy, and Edgerton could have easily trimmed off half an hour. This may be a viewing more worthy of Netflix than the price of a cinema ticket.
Gringo is released nationwide on 9th March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Gringo here: