Wednesday, July 18, 2012

New on DVD/Blu-ray: GET THE GRINGO (2012) and INTRUDERS (2012)

(US - 2012)

By this point, it's impossible to watch a new Mel Gibson film without addressing the elephant in the room that is Mel Gibson.  The last several years have been a public relations nightmare for the actor and Oscar-winning director with alcoholism, anti-Semitic and racist comments, domestic violence, and other instances of anger management issues.  Whether he's just really an inherently nasty person or, as he's said on several occasions, manic depressive, Gibson's offscreen problems have taken a toll on his career.  Hollywood and movie audiences forgave him once, when 2010's EDGE OF DARKNESS, his first time in front of the camera since 2003's little-seen THE SINGING DETECTIVE, became a hit.  Gibson showed that yes, he made some mistakes, but he owned up to them, said all the right things, and took his lumps, and as a result, people indeed still liked him and wanted to see his movies.  But then uglier stuff just kept coming out, and despite a passionate defense from co-star/director Jodie Foster, nobody wanted anything to do with 2011's THE BEAVER, which sounded terrible even without Gibson's personal life becoming a tabloid train wreck (he suffers a nervous breakdown and finds he can only express himself through a beaver hand-puppet).  When THE BEAVER bombed ($21 million budget, grossed less than $1 million), Gibson's already-completed south-of-the-border comedy/thriller GET THE GRINGO (originally titled HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION) could only manage an undignified straight-to-DirecTV release in the spring of 2012 after two years on the shelf.  Gibson tried to put a positive spin on things by saying it's just representative of the changing ways of movie distribution, but let's get real:  nobody wanted to handle GET THE GRINGO because the idea of Mel Gibson and the baggage that accompanies him is just a touchy subject.  Now, whether he's mentally ill or has a drinking problem or is just a colossal prick is up for debate.  His offscreen comments and a lot of his behavior are reprehensible, but his onscreen presence is such that he somehow makes it possible to put all of that aside when he's doing what he does best.  Throughout the history of the movies, with rare exception, audiences have proven to be remarkably forgiving when it comes to entertainers who screw up.  I say this not to defend or excuse Mel Gibson's transgressions, but to just put it in perspective: the movies aren't reality and the actors aren't the people they play. Going back to the silent era, famous people have always screwed up and the gossip rags have always reported it, but today's technological advances, the immediacy of the internet, and the 24-hour news culture have just made it much easier for us to rubberneck in real time when a celebrity implodes.   It's very possible that our big-screen heroes have always been assholes.

Which brings us to GET THE GRINGO, which is actually pretty good.  Gibson does the "cold-blooded anti-hero" thing as well as anyone, and here he's the nameless "driver," thrown into a shanty-town of a prison in Tijuana after crashing his getaway car filled with $2 million through a US/Mexican border wall.  Once in the prison (which he dubs "the world's shittiest mall"), he gets in the middle of a war between a Mexican crime family led by Javi (Daniel Jiminez Cacho) and powerful San Diego mobster Frank (Peter Stormare).  Driver stole Frank's money, and now Javi's crew has stolen it from the corrupt Mexican border cops who kept it for themselves.  Driver befriends ten-year-old Kid (Kevin Hernandez), who's grown up in the prison since his parents were both arrested for drug trafficking.  Kid is in danger since he's the only match in the prison for an acceptable liver transplant for the deathly ill Javi, who's already got Kid's dead dad's failing liver inside of him.  Driver concocts a complex scheme to get Kid and his innocent mother (Dolores Heredia) out of Tijuana while at the same time, playing Javi and Frank against each other.  GET THE GRINGO is a funny, violent, and thoroughly scuzzy film that shows that however chaotic his personal life may be, Gibson still has unquestionable star power.  Driver isn't too far off from Gibson's tough, smartass Porter in PAYBACK, mixed with the single-minded sense of vengeful rage that his EDGE OF DARKNESS character possessed.  Gibson co-wrote the script with longtime assistants Adrian Grunberg (who also directed) and Stacy Perskie, and it plays to his strengths.  Also with the great character actors Bob Gunton and Patrick Bauchau in small roles, Peter Geraty as a corrupt US Embassy official in Tijuana, a couple of masked Mexican wrestlers, and a very Peckinpah-styled shootout dampened only by some dubious-looking CGI splatter (the CGI explosions in this film also have a very SyFy phoniness to them that's a bit distracting).  (R, 96 mins)

(Spain - 2012)

This sluggishly-paced horror outing is a disappointment from Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who made a name for himself with genre fans with his cult hit INTACTO (2002) and the underrated 28 WEEKS LATER (2007).  Children have always been a focal point of the Spanish horror genre, but too much of INTRUDERS feels like a jumble of ideas cribbed from Guillermo del Toro and run through an M. Night Shyamalan filter.  In London and Madrid, two children--British Mia (Ella Purnell) and Spanish Juan (Izan Corchero) are being victimized nightly by a robed, faceless, closet-dwelling boogeyman called Hollowface, a supernatural being trying to steal the faces of children to assemble one for himself.  Mia's father John (Clive Owen) and Juan's mother Luisa (Pilar Lopez de Ayala) are also attacked by Hollowface.  When the attacks continue--and Mia's mother Susanna (Carice van Houten) never manages to see Hollowface--John calls the police and installs a security system, while single mother Luisa takes Juan to a priest (Daniel Bruhl) who thinks the boy might be possessed.  Things get complicated after one Hollowface incident where security footage shows John being attacked by nothing, prompting police to brand him the real problem, especially when a psychologist (Kerry Fox) tells John that he and Mia, who loses her ability to speak after Hollowface runs his hand over her mouth, are experiencing folie a deux, where two individuals with a close bond share the same delusional psychosis.  Eventually, there's an inevitable twist and an explanation that lands with a total thud as the film goes from supernatural chiller to pure Shyamalanian horseshit.  There's some initially interesting ideas and the performances are decent, but it just gets slower and sillier as it proceeds, and the CGI is terrible.  Millennium acquired this for the US and put it on just 33 screens for a $64,000 gross.  Fresnadillo showed much promise with his first two feature films, but he stumbles with the tired INTRUDERS.  He's currently attached to direct the HIGHLANDER remake, a film eagerly awaited by absolutely no one.  (R, 100 mins)

1 comment:

  1. Back in April, I was invited to a Fangoria screening of THE RAVEN in New York that was in a theater wayyyyy too small to accommodate all of the people who showed up with free passes. I learned afterward that many of the people who didn't make it in to see THE RAVEN were hustled into another theater for a sneak preview of GET THE GRINGO. I guess that was the extend of its theatrical release, at least in New York! -- CP