Gringo

I’ve been looking forward to this movie more than any other film in years. That’s because one of the best films I’ve ever seen is The Square, a 2008 movie out of Australia. It was written by and starred a then unknown Joel Edgerton, and was directed by his brother Nash. They were stuntmen (Nash Edgerton still is), and it’s nice to see them teamed up again with Nash helming this project.

Watching this movie reminded me of the fun I had watching Midnight Run, Jackie Brown, and Lethal Weapon years ago. Now, it might not be as good as those movies, but it’s a blast which makes it all the more perplexing that the snore-fest A Wrinkle in Time is getting better reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It just shows you how idiotic most movie critics can be.

Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron) run a Chicago-based pharmaceutical company that’s involved in a merger. The only problem is that Rusk has been selling some of their drugs on the side, to a cartel in Mexico. So he needs to tie up some loose ends before everyone starts combing the books and checking the business out.

Employee Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), a college friend of Rusk, is the hapless sap that often flies to the company’s operation in Mexico. Rusk and Elaine go with him on his next trip to put the kibosh on the sales to the cartel.

Harold isn’t quite as naive as he seems. He gets wind that he might be out of a job, and he expresses concerns to Rusk. In one of the funniest one-two punches I’ve seen in years, he’s given some convoluted story about an experiment involving gorillas that were given carrots and bananas. Later, when he hears another story involving gorillas, I literally laughed for the next two minutes.

Usually if people are unlikable, it can be a hard watch. Yet something about watching actors like Edgerton and Theron play these characters make it amusing. And the same can be said for Oyelowo, who is playing against type. This is someone who has done serious movies like Selma, Queen of Katwe, and A United Kingdom. Watching him panic, or scream because he hates needles, or trying to finally take the upper-hand on being screwed over…make for a rather entertaining couple of hours.

Amanda Seyfried plays the only other nice character in the movie, and she gets involved in the trip to Mexico when her guitar playing boyfriend offers her a trip there (in order to steal some of the drugs this company is making).

One fun fact: Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris plays the woman that comes into their guitar shop to offer the deal.

Thandie Newton plays the wife of Harold, and she’s driving them into the poor house.

Sharlto Copley (District 9) plays Mitch, a wacky mercenary character that Rusk brings in to rescue the kidnapped Harold. Things go south (no pun intended) rather quickly. It was refreshing that Mitch actually has a bit of a conscious, and his interest may be money, but that’s for helping poor Haitian children.

When he thinks he’ll get part of this ransom, and we find out the company doesn’t have the proper insurance to even pay it…I thought of a scene out of Catch-22. Other times, I was thinking of Elmore Leonard films like Jackie Brown and Get Shorty (I actually liked this movie more than Get Shorty).

This was co-written by Matthew Stone (who did the horribly unfunny Intolerable Cruelty) and Anthony Tambakis (who wrote the underrated Joel Edgerton movie Warrior), and I’m sure it’s going to be Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movie of the year. I say that because of all the shootings, wacky characters, and a funny scene involving a drug lord that’s bothered that everyone thinks Sgt. Pepper’s is The Beatles best album.

One of my complaints with movies is that they never know how to execute comedy properly. The filmmakers involved in this surely do.

There were at least 20 funny scenes. One of them involves Harold discussing a chess game with a bartender. Another had a teenager trying out a guitar in the shop (which is perhaps the funniest scene in a music store since Mike Myers played “Stairway to Heaven” in Wayne’s World).

And I won’t ruin the punchlines to those scenes, and the many other humorous moments in this film.

My only complaint is that there are a few plot holes and contrivances you have to let go, and Charlize Theron’s character is a bit over-the-top. I would’ve toned her down a notch.

David Oyelowo blasted the Academy during the whole “Oscarssowhite” campaign. Sure, it was a shame he got passed over for a nomination after playing Martin Luther King, Jr. As crazy as this sounds, his performance here is way better; and I can guarantee you, he won’t get a nomination for this part (The Academy has no problem nominating black actors, as we saw with this year’s nominations; but it certainly does when it comes to comedies and comedic performances).

So catch this movie, and watch what I feel is his best performance to date.

3 ½ stars out of 5.