Families are overrated. I started writing this review two hours ago, as I can see by the time stamp, but apart from inserting the photo I've done nothing. For the last two hours family members have been walking in and out of my room, talking and squawking, not letting me get on with it. Sure, I love my family, but at this time of night I deserve a little peace.
End of rant. Now let's get on with my review.
"Gringo" is a film I wanted to see when it was in German cinemas last year. It features Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried, two of my favourite actresses. Add Joel Edgerton and Sharlto Copley, and you can expect a brilliant film.
Unfortunately, a film's quality isn't the sum of its actors. "Gringo" skids out of control with too many subplots weighing down the film. Oops, I'm mixing my metaphors, but I think you know what I mean. I'm sorry to say that Amanda Seyfried is completely superfluous. The film would have been tighter and more enjoyable if she'd been written out.
Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo) is an employee in an American pharmaceutical company that's about to begin to sell medical marijuana. It's not clear what he actually does in the company, but his boss refers to him as middle management. The vagueness is deliberate. His boss, Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton), is a personal acquaintance who obviously just wants someone to blame when things go wrong. Harold probably just writes reports that nobody will ever read.
The company is in Chicago, but the production is in Mexico. While waiting for approval for the sale of marijuana pills in America, the company has been selling them to a drug lord in Mexico. Off the books, of course. Now that the official sales have begun, Richard wants to break his connection with the drug lord. That's not as easy as he thinks. The head of the Mexican factory is tortured. During a business trip Harold is mistakenly thought to be the company boss, so the drug lord wants to kidnap him. Richard sends his brother Mitch (Sharlto Copley), an ex-mercenary, to retrieve him. Or kill him. If he dies while on a business trip the insurance will pay the company five million dollars.
If that plot summary were everything, the film would have been much better. Now come all the subplots. Harold's wife is having an affair with Richard. But Richard is also having an affair with his business partner, Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron). Charlize could also have been written out of the story. Harold isn't just kidnapped in Mexico, he also tries to stage a fake kidnapping to get ransom money from his boss. And then there's Amanda Seyfried as Sunny, an innocent young woman who's talked into going to Mexico to pick up drugs with her boyfriend. There's also an undercover DEA agent. I'm sure I've forgotten other things. Honestly, too much is going on.
Harold is a tragically comic character. He believes the best of everyone. He considers his boss to be his friend, not realising that he would rather kill him than pay ransom money. He doesn't suspect for a moment that his loving wife is having an affair. Harold is naive to the point of stupidity, stumbling from one crisis into another. I didn't know whether to pity him or laugh at him.
It was difficult for me to take the characters played by Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron at face value. They're both so downright evil that they're like caricatures. Joel plays basketball with his employees after work and ridicules the other team when he wins; he always wins, because they're afraid they'll be fired if they beat him. Charlize is a sexual predator; while sitting in a bar with a potential buyer for the company's pills, she tells him to take his penis out. "If I like the look of it we can go back to my place and have sex. If not, we'll just do business". Do women like that exist in the business world? I've never met anyone who even comes close.
The film's talent is wasted. More effort should have been invested in the screenplay.
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