Gringo (2018)

  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime
  • Director: Nash Edgerton
  • Cast: David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Joel Edgerton


An exhilarating mix of dark comedy, white-knuckle action and dramatic intrigue, Gringo joyrides into Mexico, where mild-mannered businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) finds himself at the mercy of his back-stabbing business colleagues back home, local drug lords and a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary. Crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal, Harold battles to survive his increasingly dangerous situation in ways that raise the question: Is he out of his depth – or two steps ahead?


  • An immensely entertaining romp shot through with the spirit of Elmore Leonard, Gringo also serves as a showcase for David Oyelowo, best known for more serious fare like Selma, A United Kingdom and Queen of Katwe, but proving he has comedic chops to spare.

    Oyelowo plays Harold Soyinka, a Nigerian immigrant working in middle management for a pharmaceutical company in Chicago run by college chum Richard (Joel Edgerton), who might be the most deplorable jerk this side of the Northern Hemisphere. Kind and trusting Harold is as blinkered to and forgiving of his friend’s ruthless ways as he is to his wife Bonnie’s (Thandie Newton) spendthrift and adulterous ways. Harold believes that working hard and doing the right thing, which makes him the perfect patsy for Richard and his even more ruthless and ball-busting co-worker and lover, Elaine (Charlize Theron). The devious duo have been keeping Harold in the dark about several things, significantly a merger that will put him out of a job and selling their latest product, named Cannabax, a medical marijuana pill, to a Mexican drug lord named Black Panther (Carlos Corona) who, shall we say, is less than pleased when he’s informed that the two want to sever ties.

    Deciding that being a good guy gets him nowhere after discovering that he’s being screwed over by his friend and wife, Harold stages his own kidnapping whilst on a business trip to Mexico. Back in Chicago, neither Richard nor Elaine have any intentions of paying the $5 million ransom demand. Richard enlists his brother Mitch (Sharlto Copley), a former mercenary turned do-gooder, to first extract then do away with Harold, who finds himself genuinely kidnapped by Black Panther, who believes he is holding the formula for Cannabax. Also in the mix is Sunny (Amanda Seyfried), a young woman on holiday in Mexico with her boyfriend Miles (Harry Treadaway), whom she doesn’t realise is actually there to smuggle some Cannabax back across the border. Though this particular subplot may be one complication too many, it does allow for the feature film debut of Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, who establishes herself as a sparky and natural presence in her one scene as the sexy rock chick who convinces Miles to do the job.

    Gringo is essentially a plate-spinning exercise – how many can screenwriters Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone and director Nash Edgerton (brother of Joel) keep going without literally losing the plot – but there’s an idiosyncratic energy to the way all the different narrative threads and characters are executed that makes for compelling viewing. It’s snappy and cynical and, as despicable as most of the characters are, they’re tremendously fun to watch and skirt just the edge of cartoonish. Absolute credit goes to the cast, all of whom are game and memorable, whatever the size of their role. Theron, who also produced the film, is especially indelible as the uber-alpha female Elaine, looking for all the world like a Helmut Newton vamp come to life with her lips stained like venom, hard-edged blondness, and unapologetic sexuality.

    Yet Oyelowo is the undisputed star here, embodying Harold’s sad-sack underdog with a dignity that keeps one rooting for him to have a happy ending. Whether he’s giving a slight furrow of a brow, singing along to Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It,” joyously dancing in the streets of Mexico, calling to the gods in despair, or keeping up the pretence of being kidnapped, he is nothing less than stellar.

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  • I remember reading reviews about box office flops resembling 2018’s Gringo (my latest write-up). That was a long time ago. Studios rarely make out of the blue stuff like Gringo these days. I mean they did but it was probably back in the late 80’s or early 90’s.

    Anyway, Gringo is a case of mistaken identity, a gagman’s true wet dream, and a way-out black comedy that’s the movie equivalent of a rabid “dingo” (ha-ha). Gringo is also more happy-go-lucky than most dark comedies and definitely more commercial.

    As something about a mild-mannered businessman who gets embroiled in a drug cartel via the country of Mexico, Gringo makes you want to avoid visiting said country unless you plan to stick to the touristy areas. In truth, this flick is a mixture of high-octane violence, Mexican standoffs (naturally), look at me banter, and clear-sighted stunt work. Many known actors working with Gringo’s textured script, bark into the camera as they constantly try to one-up each other in the snarky department.

    Gringo at an hour and fifty-one minutes, stars David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley, and Thandie Newton. Director Nash Edgerton (Joel’s older brother) tries to give everyone ample screen time. Some of his characters are underdeveloped, some of them fade in and out, and some of them surround as dregs. Almost all of the personae are anywhere between despicable, heartless, and scurvy.

    In Gringo, the bad guys get theirs and the nice guy protagonist (Oyelowo as lowly Harold) finishes first for a change. And oh yeah, Gringo is yet another flick where we see Joel Edgerton get arrested for being a naughty, naughty boy (spoiler).

    All in all, despite some dexterous shootouts and a modern film score that resembles all things Alan Silvestri, Gringo has many unfinished plot contrivances giving the movie a chintzy, cut-and-pasted feel. I can’t quite recommend it but it’s worth at least one look.

    Bottom line: Gringo may be imprecise by today’s uber drug tale standards. Still, it’s abruptly paced, contains sound R-rated sitcom humor, and is entertaining to a fault. My rating: 2 and a half stars.

    Rating: 2.5 out of 4 stars

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