This article previously appeared on Crossfader
Director: Nash Edgerton
A Nigerian, two horrendous CEOs, two motel workers, a drug-smuggling couple, the drug cartel, and a reformed missionary all end up in Mexico at the same time. Okay, so there’s no punchline for what seems like an elaborate joke, but there is an elaborate film with an absolute monstrosity of a storyline, amusing yet effective action sequences, and a heartwarming message to boot. A black lead in a mainstream comedy to match other current black protagonists—from GET OUT to BLACK PANTHER—GRINGO is a movie of laughs, commentary, and progression.
Directed by Nash Edgerton, GRINGO has a lot going on—if the above paragraph didn’t make that clear enough. Our main character, Harold (David Oyelowo), is a man working in middle management for a pharmaceutical company. He is sent to Mexico with his two vile bosses (Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron) to discuss distribution. After they leave, Harold realizes he is fed up with his entire life back in the states and hilarity ensues as he meets the characters mentioned above. Joel and Nash Edgerton are brothers and have worked with each other on several projects. However, this is the first big budget feature that they’ve worked on together as actor and director, and this is Nash Edgerton’s first feature as a director. For his first time, he did a very impressive job.
Poor Harold cannot catch a break to save his life. Literally.
There are several characters and storylines that all come together in a giant yet hilarious explosion. While initially frustrating due to coming across as a massive mish-mash of people that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, there is a method to this madness. No spoilers, obviously, but GRINGO wraps up each storyline nicely in a satisfying, shiny little bow. It feels like a cluster foxtrot for a while, but the journey and the moral are so compelling and delightful that the build up is completely worth it. The only thing that bothered me was that in order to show how bad the bad people in this film were, they had to be over the top DESPICABLE to match the point of the film. The two bosses were so ignorantly racist that some scenes were a little difficult to watch, even if the behavior fits the characters.
The technical aspects hit all the right notes for a movie of this kind. The high saturation creates a borderline ridiculous environment to match the clumsy action sequences. The sound design matches this as well, as sounds of impact are sharp and exaggerated. 90% of the characters are just thrown into situations they could never have dreamt of, so having them flounder through these scenes with a heavy-handed aesthetic to match is a brilliant decision. There were various instances in the film where people tried to justify their deplorable deeds to Harold with drawn-out parables. As funny as these parables are, they’re also ingenious because they add to the film’s theme of karma, indecent people justifying their actions to themselves and others. They don’t make sense to Harold because, one, he’s the one being hurt in the situation, and two, he’s a good person and doesn’t have to justify anything to anyone. It’s actually expert writing under the guise of straight-laced hilarity.
If you’re a dirty snake and you know it, put on some sunglasses!
Don’t let GRINGO fool you. On its surface, the film is a comedy of errors with weaving storylines and moments of bumbling action. However, if you look closer, you’ll see a unique plot with a message that rings true no matter what era or situation that you’re in. This movie proves that you get what you deserve, even if you get there stumbling or strutting every step of the way. If you want to learn something and have a good stomach laugh while you’re at it, then GRINGO is a perfect choice.