You might have noticed that gritty action movie heroes without names has become very popular lately. Dwayne Johnson’s Driver in “Faster”, Ryan Gosling’s Driver in “Drive”, and Mel Gibson’s Driver in “Get the Gringo” (gee, I’m sensing a pattern here). And now you can add Scott Adkins’ The Man in Eduardo Rodriguez’s “El Gringo”. When you think about it (though perhaps you shouldn’t, since it’s entirely pointless), this entire “not giving your hero a name” thing is just odd. I guess if you’re a screenwriter, it saves time not having to think up a cool name for your hero. Then again, although the hero doesn’t have a name, everyone else in the movie usually does. So yeah, you figure it out.
In any case, “El Gringo” (not to be mistaken with the aforementioned “Get The Gringo” with Mel Gibson, which is also about a criminal white guy running off to Mexico with ill-got cash), stars Adkins as a former cop who flees to Mexico, shot to pieces and hauling a bag full of money. Our unnamed hero has had it with upholding the law against Mexico’s legion of drug dealers, and has decided the death of his partners is just the impetus he needs to hightail it to the tourist paradise of Acapulco. On his way to margaritas on the beach, though, he stumbles across a small town run by a trigger happy Sheriff (Erando Gonzalez) with a dislike for dogs and his small army of local gangsters, known around town by their painted faces. And oh yeah, some hapless thief name Flaca (Sofía Sisniega) keeps trying to steal the Man’s bag of money.
When the town’s bus service proves a frustrating experience, and finding a glass of water from the service-challenged establishments become a nigh impossible task, our hero ends up in the bar of the vivacious Anna (Yvette Yates), a tough local beauty who dreams of cleaning up the town. Oh, Anna, you dreamer, you. Sparks fly when the two meet, and who can blame director Eduardo Rodriguez for keeping the camera on the bar owner’s ample, er, assets. It’s downright sexist, to be sure, not that you’ll mind. “El Gringo” has a couple of things readily going for it, one being Scott Adkins as the asskickingest gringo to ever stumble his way into a Mexican backwater town, and Yvette Yates as the feistiest Chicana he ever laid eyes on. So when the two eventually hook up after she’s done cleaning his bullet wounds (he gets shot a lot), you won’t be too surprised, or disappointed.
“El Gringo” is one of the five films on the 2012 After Dark Action roster, a series of B-grade action movies assembled into one spiffy package by the same people who gave you the annual After Dark horror film festival. We’ve already reviewed two other titles in the festival’s inaugural line-up on the site, including the Cung Le/Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner “Dragon Eyes” and Jim Caviezel’s road actioner “Transit”. Eduardo Rodriguez, who directs “El Gringo”, is also responsible for another After Dark Action entry, the Dolph Lundgren-starring “Stash House” (that review is forthcoming). Rodriguez, directing from a script by Jonathan W. Stokes, dumps his entire bag of visual tricks to make “El Gringo’s” very simple story as whiz-bang as possible, so you can’t say the guy isn’t trying.
The first half of “El Gringo” is pretty enjoyable, thanks to some nice touches of characterization by Adkins, and there are some good chuckles to be had when you realize the movie has repeated the same sequence at least three times. Each time, wannabe tough girl Flaca tries to steal from the Man, only to hand the bag right back to him. Once the bad guys and their crooked police chief realize that the Man is hauling around a fortune, though, the action kicks in gear. Rodriguez and company orchestrates a 10-minute sequence that features the Man eluding, shooting, and slaughtering about 50 of the bad guys in the alleyways of the small Mexican town. It’s ridiculous and absurdly over-the-top, but great fun. Unfortunately that about does it for major action, which is disappointing because there’s another 50 more minutes of movie left. To say that the rest of “El Gringo” doesn’t come even close to matching that level of gun-happy entertainment is an understatement.
Not surprisingly, “El Gringo” is very hit and miss. There are parts of the film that are really good, like the Man trying in vain to get a glass of water. And for a while there, I was sure the film would never reveal the contents of the Man’s bag, giving us little glimpses of its contents every now and then, while teasing us of its true purpose. Alas, you find out pretty fast that yeah, there’s money in there, lots of it, and, well, there goes that could-have-been-awesome McGuffin. The film also features a glorified cameo by Christian Slater, playing the Man’s former boss, who hightails it into Mexico after his underling. Turns out, he has an ulterior motive, but you probably already figured that one out. After all, he’s dressed like a pimp and not a cop, and he’s got a gun pointed at the hero’s head in one of the pictures. Plus, it’s Christian Slater.
Eduardo Rodriguez (director) / Jonathan W. Stokes (screenplay)
CAST: Scott Adkins … The Man
Yvette Yates … Anna
Christian Slater … Lieutenant West
Israel Islas … Culebra
Erando González … Chief Espinoza
Sofía Sisniega … Flaca