International title: Get the Gringo
How I Spent My Summer Vacation sees Mel Gibson returning to what made him famous all those years ago; kicking ass and taking names.
Not being the toast of the town these days in Hollywood (the film is only being made available through Video On Demand in the U.S), Mel is trying to build his career back up from scratch with this straight from the 80s buddy comedy.
It starts with Gibson’s “Driver” being chased by the police before crashing right on the Mexican border. With millions of dollars in stolen money the less than honest officials are only too happy to send him to jail. The prison is more like a small village where drugs are readily available, families of the inmates can come and go as they please and gambling and guns are ever-present.
Gibson learns fast and has the placed pegged within his first few days. The film uses a lot of voice-over but in a different kind of way, it just tells us Gibson’s inner thoughts on the facts of his situation instead of pointless philosophical ramblings as is so often the case. His “buddy”, played excellently by Kevin Hernandez, is a nine-year-old boy and son of one of the previous inmates. He’s street smart with a fondness for cigarettes and vengeance. The performance is reminiscent of Jonathan Ke Quan as Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with the father-son like chemistry between Hernandez and Gibson being pretty believable.
The film is not as funny as an all out comedy and most of the laughs come from ridiculous action but it has more chuckles than you’d expect. It’s quite a stereotypical portrayal of Mexican criminal life but at least it doesn’t have inmates walking around in sombreros. With recent news of 49 headless corpses being found in the country, perhaps its portrayal isn’t a million miles from home. The prison is obviously modelled on real life self-governing examples like the San Pedro Prison in La Paz, Bolivia.
The supporting cast is passable with the standout being The Wire’s own Peter Gerety who plays a sleazy US consulate determined to find out Gibson’s past, and more importantly how he can get his share of the money. Daniel Gimenez Cacho plays Javi a pretty paint by numbers head boss with throw backs to Scarface. Mel is the best thing in it though, this genre is where he made his bread and butter and he makes it seem effortless.
Memorable (if daft) dialogue – “as my mother said: fuck off loser” – and Gibson’s efficient co-written screenplay keeps things moving pretty swiftly with the piece clocking in around the 90 minute mark, which really is the holy grail for action movies. This is Adrian Grunberg’s first feature but having worked as second unit or assistant director on over 20 films he is well aware of what needs to be done.
Not a masterpiece by any means but the perfect watch for a weekend DVD or some harmless escapism with a few beers.
USA / Directed By: Adrian Grunberg / Written By: Mel Gibson, Adrian Grunberg, Stacy Perskie / Starring: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris, Bob Gunton / 95min / Action, Drama / Release: 1 May 2012 (US, Canada – Video on Demand), 11 May 2012 (Irl/UK)