Gringo (2018)

*. I began my notes on 2 Days in the Valley (1996) by talking about the immediate impact Pulp Fiction had and the clones it gave rise to.
*. 2 Days in the Valley also featured the debut of Charlize Theron in a leading role. What’s remarkable is that over twenty years later she’d be back in a movie demonstrating just how long the reach of Tarantino’s masterpiece has been.
*. I don’t want to lean on this too heavily, but you feel Tarantino’s continuing influence throughout Gringo. For example, with the gangster story whose several different threads dissolve into a violent comedy of errors, and the passages of inane argument that come out of nowhere (like what the best Beatles album was, or whether Peter was really a better man than Judas). I see the script anyway as being very much in the early Tarantino vein.
*. I did not, however, care for the script very much. Most of the characters are stupid and they do stupid things. Other characters are introduced who have no role to serve. Did it matter that Harold was married and his wife was cheating on him with his boss? Did we need the drug mule sub-plot at all? I didn’t see the point in any of this.
*. The direction is also flat. It’s the first film by Nash Edgerton, brother of Joel, who plays one of the leads. The best I can say for it is that it’s competent.
*. This is all too bad, as there’s a good performance by David Oyelowo wasted here. Meanwhile, Theron’s role is frankly embarassing. I can only hope she got paid a lot.
*. With movies like this they’re basically just hoping that your desire to see how all the complications in the plot are resolved will be enough to keep a pilot light of interest on. For me it didn’t. I had the sense the story was going nowhere. That said, the ending did surprise me. Just not in a good way.
*. We wind up with a montage showing us what’s happened to all the characters. But the point of the film, or at least its theme, seems to have been that while terrible things happen to good people, in the end everything works out. But then we do not see just desserts being served. For example, why is Sharlto Copley’s ex-spec ops humanitarian one of the only characters to get killed? (I won’t bother asking how he survives being hit by a car in the first place only to be shot later.)
*. I suppose we can write that one off to irony, but then why does Elaine (Theron) get away with everything? She’s just as big a corporate crook as her partner Richard, and just as heartless. Is it because she’s a woman and has to put up with a lot of guys hitting on her? But this makes no sense because she uses sex, very crudely, to get ahead. It seems an odd political and moral message.
*. This may be irony as well, deliberately reversing our expectations, but things get even stranger. I have to admit, I was expecting Harry to disappear off to Haiti so he could continue Copley’s work there. If I understand what’s going on, it’s Copley’s money he’s taking. But instead we see he’s become just another rich guy running a touristy bar down in Mexico. Does he still believe in God? Or Mammon?

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