Mel Gibson goes to prison in “Get The Gringo”, a film that’s also known as “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” overseas. The latter is actually a better title considering the tone of the movie, because “Get the Gringo” is a wacky prison movie that isn’t like any prison movie you’ve probably ever seen before. The prison in question is in Mexico, and is essentially its own self-sustaining mini-city, free from the “problems” of the world outside. Of course, it also has plenty of problems inside, too, but being that Gibson’s unnamed “Driver” character is a career criminal, that’s not too much of an obstacle. The plot of “Get the Gringo” finds Gibson’s Driver stealing some money then making his getaway. He ends up on the wrong side of the border, where he’s arrested and tossed in prison. Peter Stormare plays the badder bad guy who our bad guy steals the money from. Needless to say, Stormare wants it back.
There’s nothing too new about “Get the Gringo’s” plot, but there is one really novel aspect — the film’s Mexican prison setting is both hilarious and inventive. I haven’t a clue if a real prison like this could possibly exist in the world, but hey, Mexico is Mexico, so who knows what really goes on down there. Directed by Adrian Grunberg and released by Gibson through Fox (the film skipped theaters altogether, opting for VOD and now, DVD/Blu-ray), “Get the Gringo” features a mostly unsympathetic hero in Gibson, who finds himself becoming attach to a nameless kid (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia) in the prison. No, the kid is not incarcerated, his mother is, but this is the type of prison where you can bring your family to live with you. I shit you not. Much of “Get the Gringo” follows Driver and the Kid as they weave their way through the prison system, stealing and lying their way to keep Driver one step ahead of Stormare’s bad guys and the Kid one step away from some bad people who wouldn’t mind pinching one of his organs.
Obviously it would help tremendously if you were already a fan of Mel Gibson to like “Get the Gringo”. The film is certainly violent, with plenty of beatings, shootings, almost all of them taking place inside the prison. Indeed, 90% of the movie actually occurs within the prison walls. Despite his real-life, ahem, issues, Gibson is perfect for the role, and he really is truly the only reason to watch this film. This may sound like a backhanded compliment, but I don’t think there’s anyone but Gibson who can quite showcase the level of, er, crazy that is required for a role like this. It also gets bonus points for the casting of Dolores Heredia, who is not your typical Perfect 10 model posing as a single mother locked up in prison for dealing drugs. And if nothing else, “Get the Gringo” has the most awesome twist on a prison movie I’ve seen in decades.
Sam Worthington is … a man on a ledge! The most descriptive title of the year goes to director Asger Leth’s caper thriller “Man on a Ledge”. Not to spoil anything for you, but the whole ledge thing is just a diversion so Sam Worthington’s little brother, played by Jamie Bell (“The Adventures of Tintin”), can steal something from bad guy Ed Harris. Worthington plays an ex-cop name Nick Cassidy, who was sent up the river for stealing one uber precious gem from Harris’ scumbaggy businessman David Englander. Nick, of course, claims he’s innocent, and after escaping from custody, he journeys out onto the ledge … directly across the street from Englander’s office.
Elizabeth Banks co-stars as New York’s spunkiest, cutest hostage negotiator who is called in to talk Nick off the ledge. Banks’ Lydia Mercer has a whole laundry list of issues herself, which makes her the perfect person for Nick to convince over onto his team. Titus Welliver plays Mercer’s shady boss, and Edward Burns is mostly wasted as a fellow hostage negotiator. While the cops are trying to talk Nick down, Nick’s little brother Joey and his girlfriend Angie (a ridiculously hot Genesis Rodriguez) is across the street busting their way into Englander’s high-rise building to get to his vault. The question is: will the cops talk (or force) Nick down before Joey and Angie can get the job done? Or better yet, how many more gratuitous situations can Asger Leth put Genesis Rodriguez in where she gets to show off all her, er, talents?
“Man on a Ledge” ends predictably, which is disappointing, but not unexpected given Nick’s ludicrous “master plan”, which seems to consist of 10% actual planning and 90% pure dumb ass luck. Pablo F. Fenjves’ script owes a tremendous amount to the 1998 movie “The Negotiator”, starring Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, which has almost the exact same premise. Overall, “Man on a Ledge” is not a bad film, it’s certainly entertaining, but it’s nowhere near as clever as it probably thinks it is. At times the film thinks it’s an “Ocean’s 13” movie, but the truth is, but Danny Ocean and company would run rings around these bumbling New Yawkers. By the way, filmmakers, take note, Ed Harris is now perfect to play a snake-human hybrid creature in a monster movie should you be casting, and you won’t even need make-up.
What can I say, except that I wish Andrew Niccol’s “In Time” was better. A lot better. Plus, I think I have to go see a plastic surgeon now, because after being smashed in the face repeatedly by the film’s Message Hammer, I ain’t feeling so good no mo. Talk about piling it on. Jesus. This is from the man who gave us “Gattaca”, “The Truman Show”, and “Lord of War”? Maybe I just had too high of an expectation for “In Time”, but the wealth of “time”-related puns in the film is like one big bad joke. This is a movie written by a 20-year old USC screenwriting student who thinks he’s being clever. This is not a script written by the man who gave us “The Truman Show” YEARS before reality TV became a bane of our existence, or the director of “Gattaca”, one of the best sci-fi films of all time.
“In Time’s” poster boy is former pop star Justin Timberlake, playing Will Salas, a hard-working Joe Schmoe in the near future who, for some reason, has wicked fighting abilities. (Don’t ask me how; the film never explains it.) Will exists in a society where aging has stopped past the age of 25 thanks to genetic science, after which you are allowed one more year to live, but you can “buy” more time by working. Currency has been replaced by, literally, time. A job nets you a certain amount of hours; food costs minutes, etc. This is actually the best part of the movie — how Niccol works in the “time as money” concept. After a chance encounter with solemn rich guy Matt Bomer, Will wakes up with centuries on his clock. Great, right? Not quite. His mother dies when she can’t afford to pay for her bus fare, and Will becomes hunted by a douchebaggy Time Keeper name Raymond Leon (Cillian Murphy), who is so dedicated to his job as to be the biggest douche on the planet. Yes, even a bigger douche than all those rich douches that all look 25 and live off the backs of the poor. You know, the 1%.
Yes, “In Time” goes there. It doesn’t just go there, it wallows there. Like a pig in filth. It rolls around, gets dirty, rises, grins at you like the big dumb pig that is, then jumps right back into the muck and rolls around some more. It’s preaching to the choir without any semblance of skill whatsoever. After Will busts into the bad rich people’s lives, you’re thinking, “Alright, now we’re talking!” But then the film just becomes a ridiculous retread of Bonnie and Clyde, with Will absconding with the biggest of the Big Bad Rich Guy’s daughter and taking her back to his “ghetto” neighborhood. Where they fall in love and start robbing banks. I shit you not. The future has some of the shittiest bank security you’ll ever see. From any other writer/director, I could dismiss this as a silly film made by an amateur. From Andrew Niccol, it’s just a massive disappointment.