Amazon Studios/STX Entertainment
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Nash Edgerton
Screenwriter: Anthony Tambakis, Matthew Stone
Cast: Joel Edgerton, David Oyelowo, Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron, Yul Vazquez, Thandie Newton, Sharto Copley, Harry Treadaway
Screened at: Park Ave., NYC, 3/1/18
Opens: March 9, 2018
A cartoon that appeared the other day in the New Yorker magazine online finds a husband reading the newspaper and saying to his wife, “February 29 flew by without a single mention of corruption in Washington.” We’ve gotten so used to corruption in government since the Trump administration took over—and some of us have been around enough to know about Richard Nixon’s forced resignation—that we are no longer shocked in the slightest when the next wave of same ol’ news comes around. Government is hardly the only agency of malfeasance: corporations have long done everything to evade a responsible watch by our representatives, but “Gringo,” which is Nash Edgerton’s new movie, shows that while bosses finagle to line their pockets, employers are out to make financial gain by crook as well as by hook.
The venality of big business, in this case Big Pharma, covers the screen, the theme being a worthy one about the corruptibility of formerly honest people who turn crooked. Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), treated as a friend of Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron), becomes frightfully disillusioned by listening in to captured conversations by his two employers running a company about to sell weed in pill form. With Elaine using her wiles on customers and Richard’s assuring clients of the value of his product, the two will do whatever they can to get out of their company’s financial difficulties. Harold, a mild-mannered businessman, worries that a prospective merger of his company that would find his skills redundant, hits upon a plan. He will fake a kidnapping in Mexico, using two dorky managers of a Mexican fleabag hotel to serve as actors. He will shout to Richard and Elaine that he has been kidnapped by drug lords demanding $5 million in ransom and, when released will pocket the money himself and take off.
Though “Gringo” has enough twists to confuse the audience as to who is getting money from whom, the surprises are on a juvenile level. Harold winds up actually kidnapped by a drug lord who thinks the poor guy is the real boss who knows the combination to a safe hiding the recipe for the weed. He is turn switched from one group of bad guys to another. The entire picture is on a level appreciated by an audience of adolescents in both age and intelligence though it features David Oyelowo who, considering his previous role as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” could feel guilty about his starring role in a movie that recycles car chases, crashes, and a surrounding group of cartoon characters.
Rated R. 110 minutes. © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – C-
Acting – C+
Technical – B-
Overall – C