Gringo is a zany, black humor, ensemble comedy akin to The Big Lebowski and Big Trouble. It is the feature film debut from Australian stuntman and actor Nash Edgerton. His better known younger brother, Joel Edgerton, co-stars. To say Gringo has a lot going on is an understatement. The plot is raucously frenetic with multiple characters bumbling around. It gets a bit thick in the weeds, but never fails to be entertaining. I laughed consistently throughout, some bits had me howling. It's a messy, fun ride at a relatively humorless weekend box office.
The fantastic David Oyelowo stars as Harold Soyinka, a genteel everyman who works as a manager at a Chicago pharmaceutical company. The mild-mannered, by the book Harold has a wife (Thandie Newton) spending him into bankruptcy. At work, he has to deal with his obnoxious bosses. Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton) is the company president, a backstabbing, arrogant egomaniac who shamelessly exploits others. Then you have his other boss, Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron), a foul-mouthed, sex driven cutthroat who thrives on being offensive.
Harold's life takes a twisted turn when he's forced to go to the company's Mexican production plant. It seems that there's quite a bit of inventory missing. Before long, Harold finds himself embroiled in a vast conspiracy that includes a Mexican drug lord, the DEA, his bosses, and a hapless tourist couple (Amanda Seyfried, Harry Treadaway). It's a free for all as everyone wants a piece of poor Harold. The plot gets even crazier when Richard has to send his mercenary brother (Sharlto Copley) to get Harold safely out of Mexico.
The title serves the film well. Harold is the textbook definition of a Gringo. He's the good guy, fish out water, over his head in a dangerous Mexican situation. David Oyelowo sells the character perfectly. He's the schlub that everyone steps on to get ahead. The plot thickens when Harold decides to stop being the punching bag and punch back. At this point the film goes nuts. Everything becomes a blur as the story melts into confusion. Gringo never settles down and your attention somewhat derails.
The scattershot narrative is saved by the hilarious supporting cast. Joel Edgerton and Charlize Theron (who is next playing a very different role as a struggling mother in Tully), will have you falling out of your chair laughing. They are spectacularly conniving and rude. Theron hurls insults throughout and gloriously emasculates any man who stands in her way. They are the perfect foils to Harold's nice guy persona. It does get cartoonish and overblown, but that's the draw of this film.
Nash Edgerton could have cut several storylines from Gringo. The film would have been just as comical and easier to follow. I think he got enamored with a surplus of good footage. It's hard to leave out material, so there's a tendency for filmmakers to force everything in. Edgerton has a promising future. He just needs to turn the spigot down on the hose. Less is more works.
From Amazon Studios and STX Films, Gringo will certainly tickle your funny bone. The characters are outrageous, more than making up for the bewildering plot. Charlize Theron delivers a scathing, low self-esteem monologue that is absolutely hilarious. That scene by itself is worth the price of admission.