Gritty affair that keeps going with a good amount of rawness to keep Mel Gibson's co-scribed production relatively watchable. While the film appears to be reenacting nothing but another chapter of a criminal's career, in this case one in Mexico after stealing from a mob leader, it is blessed with evenly good performance throughout by its cast to instill a certain degree of pleasant plausibility.
In its main arena of film market release, it is logically titled Get the Gringo. In other global markets, such as the one where I viewed this film, we read it as How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Rather jarring in mind, it leaves one to ponder upon the aptness of the later title. It influences genre expectations somewhat.
And I digress.
Gibson's latest film venture, though not sitting on the director's chair, has been often prejudged by several based upon his public image (which is often notorious for those in the unknown). But with the obligation to view every film as per any other without prejudice, Gibson does good with what he does best here in the gritty film directed by Adrian Grunberg. It may be Grunberg's first feature film, but he's no stranger to direction with his multiple involvement as second director in prior productions ranging from Gibson's Apocalypto to Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Possibly highly linked to his experience with his endeavour in the Mexican chapter of Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, Grunberg is able to portray Mexico in a flavourful facade and (warm) hue. With a prison that resembles a buzzing commercial bazaar, Grunberg (and possibly the production designer Bernardo Trujillo as well) has revealed a fair amount of flair and imagination of a realm that seems to be entirely sustainable within the Mexican judicial infrastructure.
Observing dark humour with violence that appeals, it is hard not to think of filmmakers like Tarantino (and to a smaller extent, the Coen brothers) imposing influence here. This is possible with the numerous supporting characters that while given minor screentime involvement, apply distinct personality tastes that viewers will not forget easily. It's all but part of the commendable cast ensemble.
Some key examples are noticed in Daniel Giménez Cacho's Javi (the dude who rules the prison in a bathrobe walking a good view penthouse) and Kevin Hernandez as the unnamed kid who's street smart.
Gbison's heroics here is by no means honorable, but it works for a personality like him. Without any apparent goodwill to upkeep, the film works its ways into us unknowingly with some invisible charm. You see, the film is by no means a sure critics' choice but it exudes a sense of appeal that intrigues and engages well.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation may not be the kind of adventure one will expect of Gibson, but it sure is a worthy try although not an exceptional recommendation.