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The anti-hero returns, older and grimmer

Akhil Kadidal, Dec 15, 2012 : 1:25 IST
The driver (Mel Gibson) holds his ground in the midst of a gunfight at the prison.
Get the gringo
English (A)
Directed: Adam Grunberg
Cast: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez

Mel Gibson may have solidified his reputation as an actor for electrifying performances as the epic champion, but intermingled with the great performances of his career have been equally memorable roles as the anti-hero.

Get the Gringo (or formally, How I Spent my Summer Vacation) is one such film where Mr Gibson plays a less than stellar human being.

Closely reminiscent of Gibson’s earlier gangster film, Payback (1999), Gringo charts the progress of a career criminal through the seedy world of organized crime.

In Payback, Gibson’s character was solely interested in being reimbursed with money from a heist — an obsession which led to the eventual destruction of a crime syndicate.

In Gringo, Mr Gibson’s character, known only as the Driver, is interested in regaining a million-dollar booty lost to corrupt Mexican Federales, who in gratitude have left him incarcerated in the local penitentiary.

What follows is a surreal trip through the underbelly of the Mexican penal system, complete with round-the-clock music which the Driver describes as “torture by mariachi” and his realization that not only are Mexican prisons some of the most disorganized places in the world, but also the most bizarre.

Money buys power, but here it can also buy the right to bring your family into the prison to share the squalid world of life behind bars. The family that lives together stays together.

“Is this a prison or the world’s worst mall?” the Driver wonders, seeing the fantastic, self-contained ecosystem of the prison, packed with women, children, food stalls, small businesses and inmates.

As the Driver sets about adapting to his new home, he sets into play a completed scheme to move up through the inmate hierarchy and reclaim his money.

Filmed under difficult conditions, Get the Gringo went straight to DVD and on-demand viewing when it was released in May 2012.

The strategy by Mr Gibson’s company, Icon Pictures, was to increase revenue. But it is difficult to see how film would have failed to make money had it been released to theatres as it is being now, in India (albeit with limited release).

A sometimes funny and dark film, and using Gibson’s gravely voiceover (another trademark from Payback), the story makes room for spectacular action, but uses human drama to soften the hard edges.

Some compelling acting by Mr Gibson warrants a view.

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