HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION (Get The Gringo) (2012)
Genre:Action/Thriller Director: Adrian Grunberg Cast: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris, Kevin Hernandez, Bob Gunton, Stephanie Lemelin, Scott Cohen, Aaron Cohen RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins Rating: M18 (Coarse Language and Violence) Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & Musictronic Official Website: Opening Day:21 June 2012
Synopsis: The story of Driver, a career criminal who is picked up by the Mexican police as he desperately tries to cross the border in a car stuffed full of stolen cash. The police take the cash and dump him in the infamous El Pueblito prison - a hell on earth where the prison gangs run the show. Driver has no ID or fingerprints but he still gets a visit from a corrupt American Embassy official who has heard about the money. If Driver doesn't find a way of paying him off while he's inside, then he's going to let the authorities know where Driver is. And it won't be long before the guys he stole the money from find him too. Driver knows it is sink or swim. He hooks up with a young boy who shows him how to survive in the prison, but the kid has a terrible secret. He shares a rare blood type with Javi - the criminal who ruthlessly controls the prison and everyone in it. The kid is Javi’s life insurance policy and he has doctors on standby to transplant his liver whenever the time comes. But Driver has other ideas and pretty soon he devises an audacious plan to escape with the kid, the kid’s mother and the money.
After the disappointing ‘Edge of Darkness’ and the mostly-ignored ‘The Beaver’, Mel Gibson returns to what he does best playing the defiant, somewhat impulsive, but always sharp-thinking anti-hero in ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’. Indeed, his latest persona will be instantly familiar to those who remember him from his ‘Lethal Weapon’ days, way before his disastrous personal life overshadowed his talent as a filmmaker behind the camera and his charisma as an actor in front of it.
Gibson’s fingerprints are all over this grungy action-comedy set in a loose Mexican prison- it was Gibson who took a first crack at the script after reading about the real-life Tijuana penitentiary nicknamed ‘El Pueblito’. Here where the families of inmates are allowed to live inside the prison walls with them lives a bustling and thriving community, with residence traded like real estate and drugs and firearms openly sold as commodities. Into this unique setting is thrust Gibson’s Driver, after landing on Mexican soil while trying to evade the U.S. Border Patrol.
That opening sequence will certainly get your attention- devoid of the sheen of modern-day Hollywood action movies, there is a certain grunginess to the way it is shot, with Gibson’s wry commentary providing an extra dash of verve. That same grittiness pervades the entire picture, as the setting quickly shifts to the walls of ‘El Pueblito’ where most of the rest of the movie is set. It is there that Driver is sent to serve time and forced to adapt quickly to its unspoken rules and criminal hierarchy.
His strategy- lie low and make business with those who count. Part of the joy of the first half of the movie is in observing Driver’s resourcefulness- and though the 56-year-old Gibson has aged much compared to his earlier action icon days, that twinkle in his eye and mischievous grin on his face is still very much alive. Driver finds his purpose when he meets a tough and precocious 10-year-old kid (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia), the former and the prison’s criminal kingpin Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) joined by a most unusual life-or-death bond.
Throw in some additional complications from a State-side mobster Frank (Peter Stormare) whom Driver stole the money from, and you have a spirited mix of uneasy alliances, double-crosses, and some good-ol’ payback. The script by Gibson, his fellow producer Stacy Perskie and first-time director Adrian Grunberg melds the disparate plot threads with surprising efficiency, building to a satisfying conclusion with a healthy dash of tongue-in-cheek humour for good measure.
In the director’s seat, Grunberg (who was assistant director on Gibson's ‘Apocalypto’ and second unit director on ‘Edge of Darkness’) maximises production designer Bernardo Trujillo’s excellent recreation of ‘El Pueblito’ in a disused penitentiary in Veracruz, each one of the prison scenes popping with life and colour. He also displays an adroitness juggling both the action and the comedy in the film, while never losing sight of the bond between Driver and the kid that forms the movie’s emotional core. But most of all, Grunberg knows what Gibson does best, and wisely allows the star to take centrestage in his element.
And certainly, Gibson does not disappoint. It’s a role he has written to play to his strengths no doubt, but arguably few Hollywood stars are able to bring the same charm and energy to roguish anti-hero types that Gibson has defined over the years as an actor. It’s also nice to see Gibson in his sardonic self, and you’ll enjoy his sly sarcastic narration as much as he does. If it isn’t apparent by now, Gibson’s character doesn’t have a name in the movie- which makes his surprise impersonation of Clint Eastwood late into the film even more appropriately amusing.
Indeed, Gibson is in top form in his latest movie, far more enjoyable and entertaining than ‘Edge of Darkness’ and definitely more accessible than the darker-themed ‘The Beaver’. It doesn’t boast the bombast of the usual summer blockbuster, but this offbeat action-comedy has dark humour, nicely shot action sequences and Mel Gibson at his best element- that to us, is as good a way to spend your summer vacation as any.
(Featuring everything we’ve come to love about Mel Gibson from his ‘Lethal Weapon’ days, this ‘Summer Vacation’ is one lively Mex-set trip of dark humour and wham-bang action)