While some films are already starting to position themselves in next year’s Oscar conversation, the new film “Gringo” is also on target for awards talk. Razzie Awards.
David Oyelowo is Harold, a kind, and generally clueless pharmaceutical rep. Harold is the kind of guy everyone else takes advantage of just because they can. His trusting nature makes him a perfect target for his bosses, Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron). They accompany Harold on a routine business trip to see a manufacturer in Mexico, where it turns out they have been working on shady dealings behind his back. Dealings that put them, and particularly Harold, in the path of a cartel kingpin known as The Black Panther (Carlos Corona).
Harold stumbles onto a secret Richard has been keeping, and disappears in the middle of the night. While he is unknowingly targeted, he hatches a plan to get a big payoff from his company, but then everything goes wrong.
And, really, everything goes wrong. Within the first few scenes of “Gringo,” it is clear that this story lacks focus and direction. It frequently feels as though entire scenes are either missing or out of order. In our first meeting with Harold, he talks to his accountant about finances and we learn that his wife spends a lot of money and his company might be up for sale. Fast forward a couple of minutes, and Harold is heading off on a routine business trip, even though there was never any indication that travel is an important component of his job.
None of the side plots really go anywhere. Facts that matter, but that we don’t learn until later than we should. And characters that serve no purpose whatsoever.
David Oyelowo is a very good actor, and he is the only bright spot in this inconsistent wreck. Theron has played a fun villain before and could have done so here. Unfortunately, her character is so badly written and so illogical that it ends up an embarrassing reminder that a lot of men don’t know how to write female characters. She and Joel Edgerton’s Richard are both one-dimensional bores. Worse than that, they are clichéd bores, with no examination of their motivations or how they turned into the people they are.
There are minor players along the way, that serve virtually no purpose. Thandie Newton briefly appears as Harold’s wife, Bonnie. Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway show up in a plot that was probably supposed to be important but ends up feeling out of place and also too perfectly arranged.
Sharlto Copley also stars as Richard’s brother, a former mercenary who now spends his time rebuilding third-world countries after natural disasters. Copley’s entrance into the story makes sense at first. Until it doesn’t. Copley is a talented actor in off-the-wall parts, and this should have been such. But he just felt too reigned in and not allowed to show off his abilities.
The blame for most of this lies firmly on the shoulders of director Nash Edgerton. Any promise he showed with his first feature, 2008’s “The Square,” is lost with this discombobulated disaster. The story is unfocused, the pacing is inconsistent, and he spoils any and every element that is supposed to be a surprise.
Also at fault are the screenwriters, Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone. The story should have been fun. But it’s clear they didn’t know how to make it so. Instead, the end result is not only a disorganized jumble but also highly offensive. And not in the way that you feel guilty for laughing. Instead, it’s misogynist, racist, and just wrong on every level. “Gringo” calls itself a dark comedy. And it is so out of touch, it probably believes it is. If this movie was a person, it would be a dudebro and call itself woke.
Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite.