If Mel Gibson wants us to forget his odious public image, he’ll have much better success with films like How I Spent My Summer Vacation than depressive grovelling nonsense like The Beaver.
HISMSV joins Gibson in the middle of a car chase dressed as a clown and with his accomplice bleeding to death in the passenger seat. After making it across the border, he’s promptly arrested, put in a Mexican jail and has his shed-load of stolen cash confiscated.
But El Pueblito is no ordinary prison – it functions like a small town, with prostitute tents, shops and its own grimy economy. Family members are even allowed to come and live with inmates; the only condition being that the prisoners themselves can’t leave. Thrown together with a plucky young kid (Kevin Hernandez) whose internal organs are a vital resource, Gibson’s anonymous protagonist must deal with greedy customs officials, the unscrupulous mob boss who controls life inside, the owner of the money who doesn’t take kindly to being robbed, and yet still escape with his ill-gotten gains.
Its tight script features some superb dialogue (whether inside Gibson’s head or when he’s dealing with some hard ass) and some black-as-pitch gallows humour which constantly amuses. But Gibson’s also rather handy in the action stakes too – the opening car chase is delightfully exciting and the explosive finale is tautly executed. In fact, this is the closest that Gibson has come to playing Martin Riggs since the last Lethal Weapon movie.
That a prison such as El Pueblito could exist in the first place seems incredible but a quick Google reveals that it really does exist. Nevertheless writer/director Adrian Grunberg works hard to create a believable and immersive world which will leave you feeling slightly dirtier for watching it. He also marshals some great set pieces in which the escalating carnage swiftly approaches ridiculous, while making sure that its tongue is firmly planted in its cheek.
Clearly taking its inspiration from the The Dollars Trilogy (a nameless smoking vigilante takes a young child and his mother under his wing while dishing out retributive justice to those who cross him), HISMSV is blast and even throws in an Eastwood impression in its final act. And though Gibson’s impression is quite far off the mark, its audacity certainly raises a smile.
It’s hugely enjoyable, so it seems unfair that in the US (where it goes by the distasteful name Get The Gringo) it went straight to DVD as it’s certainly deserving of a theatrical run. It’s probably not going to make you change your opinion of Gibson the man, nor should it, but in terms of cinematic presence, he’s still got it.
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