They say hell hath no fury than a woman scorned, but what about hell hath no fury than a supremely nice guy who discovers no one really respect or cares about him? That’s the mentality David Oyelowo’s pharmaceutical rep Harold ultimately adheres to in Nash Edgerton’s twisty crime comedy Gringo, and the pay-off is an oft-hilarious, though not entirely seamless outing that survives mostly on the talented ensemble at its core.
Oyelowo has made a career up to this point excelling in more dramatic flair (Selma, Queen of Katwe, to name but a few), so it’s quite the treat to see him loosen up and let his comedy flag fly, and we can’t help but be utterly swept away in his character’s plight as his constantly tread-on Harold uncovers the depths of ugliness his supposed friend (and boss) Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton, in full narcissistic sociopath mode) and his business partner (and occasional lover) Elaine Markinson (a deliciously nasty Charlize Theron) will sink to.
Readying their company for a sale and wanting to ensure everything looks legitimate on the books, Richard and Elaine take a trip to Mexico to put an end to a side drug-fuelled business they had in operation, towing Harold along under the falsest of pretences. After insulting everyone they encounter along the way (Elaine opts to add “o” to the end of every word, thinking it’s enough to pass as speaking their language), Harold has the wool uncovered from his eyes realising his lamb could be sent to slaughter.
The sheer viciousness of Edgerton and Theron’s retorts and actions, not to mention Thandie Newton as Harold’s unfaithful wife, would be enough to keep Gringo afloat as their plot strand parallels nicely to Oyelowo’s troubles when he tries to extort a healthy sum from his bosses once he’s somewhat stranded in Mexico. Screenwriters Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis have different plans however, with Sharlto Copley’s kind-hearted mercenary, and Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway as a mismatched couple in Mexico similarly involved in a drug sale thrown in for good measure – or outlandish convenience, depending how you look at it.
Whilst the film aims for that cool, multi-arc strand, Tarantino vibe where the best of thespians unspool in a heap of profane-laden violence (and mostly succeeds when Oyelowo, Theron and Edgerton are the focus) Gringo doesn’t always flow as smoothly as it deserves to. That doesn’t detract from its worth though, as some films exist simply to entertain, and Gringo does just that in spades.
Combining dark comedy with dramatic intrigue, Gringo joyrides across the border into Mexico, where all is not as it seems for mild-mannered American businessman Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo). Crossing the line from citizen to criminal, Harold tangles with duplicitous business partners, Mexican drug lords, international mercenaries, and the DEA. As he attempts to survive in one of the most dangerous places on earth, the question lingers: is this ordinary man in way over his head, or is he two steps ahead?
Gringo is in cinemas now