‘Gringo’ Movie Review: Joel Edgerton, David Oyelowo & Charlize Theron Bring Action-Comedy To Life
With a star-studded cast, scenic location and action-packed scenes, Gringo is bound to appeal to a wide variety of audiences.
The film starts off in the middle of the story, with Chicago business tycoon Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) receiving a call from friend and employee Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), who yells frantically that he’s been kidnapped in Mexico. Just as Richard and his business partner, Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron), begin panicking, the film suddenly cuts to two days before.
The audience quickly learns that mild-mannered Harold, who immigrated to the U.S. from Nigeria, is worried that Richard will fire him if the company they both work for merges with another. Richard, who sees Harold as naive, reassures him that his job is safe because they are supposedly friends.
The three embark on a business trip to Mexico, where Richard often travels to on behalf of the company, and it’s revealed that Richard and Elaine are involved in business with a Mexican drug lord, who goes by the name Black Panther.
Meanwhile, Harold, who’s suspicious of Richard and Elaine after hearing rumors he’d be fired, secretly records their dinner conversation while he steps out for a moment. Later that night, he finds out he’s been betrayed by Richard, Elaine and his wife, and he decides not to go back to the U.S. the next day — essentially disappearing on Richard and Elaine.
The rest of the film follows the tangled mess that Harold unknowingly falls into after he secretly stays behind in Mexico. Along a journey filled with gang members and kidnappings, Harold meets a young couple — Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) and Miles (Harry Treadaway), who, unbeknownst to Sunny, are in Mexico so Miles can pull off a drug deal for $20,000.
Though Gringo is an action movie, it perfectly punctuates tense moments with humor to keep viewers at ease. For example, Harold only notices that a man is about to shoot him as the man begins telling himself he can’t go through with it. The scene had the audience on the edge of its seat, as they all thought their protagonist would die right then, but Oyelowo broke the strained moment by comically screaming and praying in exaggerated shock.
One of Gringo’s major flaws, though, was the inclusion of Sunny and Miles — their overall role was extremely minor, but writers Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone gave them an entire storyline that brought them to Mexico and intertwined their journey with Harold’s. However, they only served to further the story without actually being fleshed out as characters, and the movie could have been reworked without them.
Still, this misstep was saved by the underlying storyline and characterization of Harold. Though the overt plot was about the business deal gone wrong with The Black Panther, we see Harold go through a personal self-discovery where he realizes his life in Chicago wasn’t everything he wanted it to be. He allows himself to leave everything behind, and he comes to find that he can be better off without conventional means of happiness.
Though it wraps up a bit too neatly, Gringo is sure to bring a rollercoaster of emotions for viewers.