Review / ‘Gringo’ (MA) *** and a half

REVIEWERS in other media are down-playing Australian-born director Nash Edgerton’s comedy thriller actioner as a copy, remake, imitation of other movies. You must look far and wide to find another film in that genre to which that description wouldn’t apply.

The screenplay by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone (who also has a separate story credit) applies imaginative inputs making it more flavoursome than most of its pot-boiling predecessors.

“Gringo” conforms neatly to the structural obligation of its genre, a good guy enduring vicissitudes poured over him by as many bad guys as the budget will allow before emerging triumphant in the last reel.

It’s genuinely funny. “Funny” swings both ways. I found myself smiling much and laughing more than usual for its comic moments. And it’s funny peculiar, what Alfred Hitchcock called the MacGuffin when he needed one for “Psycho”.

In “Gringo”, it’s a demand for money that a Mexican drug lord has imposed on an American pharmaceutical company that is in the middle of launching a cannabis-based tablet with wide-ranging values. Company head Richard (Joel Edgerton) is using a public position for personal gain. His immediate subordinate is bosomy blonde biz-whiz bitch Elaine whose gutter vocabulary and body orifices are weapons to get what she wants from men. It’s not a demanding role for a skilled actress, which Charlize Theron very much is.

Confronting the bad guys is Harry (David Oyelowo) from lower down the corporate ladder, assigned to travel to Mexico to handle whatever is necessary to further the company’s objective. It might just also be that Richard wants a clear field to get up close and comfy with Harry’s wife Bonnie (Thandie Newton).

Nash Edgerton’s management of the storytelling is deft, pacy, vigorous. The tensions flow unceasingly. Its deployment of “funny” delivers a clever yet uncomplicated mix of wit and dramatic energy. Oyelowo and Theron act their heads off for our benefit. Good stuff if you want to escape from the cares of the day to a contemporary fantasy that doesn’t give a damn about who its ancestors might have been.

At all cinemas

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