Some comedies revel in the absurdity of the premise that they pitch to the audience – Nash Edgerton's Gringo, only his second true feature film after years of stunt work and acting roles on other assorted projects, is no exception. Following the trials and tribulations of mild-mannered, hard-done-by businessman Harold Soyinka, what starts as a pinch of corporate deceit and skullduggery rapidly escalates into a madcap escapade involving mergers, cannabis pills, cartels, gunfights and more, interspersed with light commentary on the nature of human avarice and how, perhaps, Mexico would sometimes do well to keep Americans out, rather than the other way around.
It's a solid enough thrust for close to two hours of zany shenanigans, and the bulk of the action taking place in Mexico marks something of a shift from the standard locales we see so often in these sorts of features. The locations are fine, even if there is nothing about the film that is particularly visually striking, save for a handful of shots of skylines at night. But ultimately, the location matters little; even the plot of a comedy is subordinate to those cast in it, and their performances. So how do they fare?
The cast, at least, is suited to a tee. Oyewolo's Harold is equal parts determined and sympathetic, and while not the primary provider of laughs his performance is strong and respectable. Joel Edgerton, floundering somewhat in the wake of cinematic misadventures such as Suicide Squad and Bright, seems to have finally found his filmic niche in being one of the grandest and most thoroughly unrepentant slimeballs in recent cinematic history, a trait similarly shared by the character Charlize Theron portrays alongside him – they relish in being assholes, Edgerton especially, and that lends an odd sort of colour to their respective characters. Sharlto Copley's Mitch, Edgerton's seldom-seen brother, is perhaps the most outstanding – and the most tragic. A retired mercenary, perhaps a send-up on some of Copley's previous roles, the actor's penchant for moments of black comedy, as seen in both Wikus and Kreuger in District 9 and Elysium, should have shone forth brightly in this R-rated feature.
Ultimately, however, the script demands he play it safe, and so his talents are inhibited. Some of the other cast members are similarly left adrift. Thandie Newton and Amanda Seyfried, in particular, don't receive a particularly noteworthy degree of focus, and their characters are one-note and somewhat flat as a result – even somewhat disquieting, in Newton's case.. The quality of the comedy itself also tends to oscillate. While Oyewolo, Theron and Copley are the centrepiece of some genuinely hilarious moments, along with having the nefarious mob boss' defining character trait be a peculiar fondness for the Beatles – something utilised to humorous effect both light and dark as the film goes on – some of the intended zingers or crowd-pleasers linger too long, or excessively focus on the vulgar side of things to the detriment of actual humorous set-ups. The film also drags in the presentation of its plot, with a distinct sense of middle-fatigue settling in around the second act even if it is dispelled by the relatively spicy finale, and it is also burdened by another problem; it seems content to underutilize its own rating, opting for rather standard comedic fare as opposed to something that elects to push its rating to the edge for the sake of comedy. Of course, this is no Deadpool - but one can't help but feel as though the end product could have been a touch more daring.
It's decent fare for the genre, and it is worth the money you'll spend to see it should it take your fancy. Despite that, however, there is little to distinguish itself from stoner or black comedies that came before it, and as such it will more than likely be another well-made title that simply fades into obscurity.