With Blood Father looming in the background and the trailer looking rather good I decided to go back slightly and start watching other Mel Gibson greatness, starting with How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Yeah yeah I could have gone to the bleeding obvious and watched the Lethal Weapon series or Braveheart (done that a few months back) but no, I wanted to rewatch his other later movies since his controversial outbursts.
So a good place to start was How I Spent My Summer Vacation. I was impressed with this movie since I first saw it at the cinema and thought it was a breath of fresh air after people indicated Gibson had flushed his career down the drain after going off on one. I'm not bothered about all that tabloid rubbish because we all want to have a rant now and again and vent frustration. I have to restrain myself daily from losing my temper and telling people how it is. And sometimes I do let rip!
But since all that with Gibson, I think he has bloomed and become a dangerous actor with more of an edge and unpredictablity. He seems to have new lease of life and back making films because he wants to. Not that I think he has made a bad film, just that he wanted to have a break when he wanted to on his terms. Good on him and f*** the system! I thought he was brilliant as the baddie in Expendables 3 and quirky in Machette Kills even though it was not that great.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a prime example of Gibson's rage with him playing a gringo, sent to a Mexican Prison by dodgy cops who take his stolen loot. Basically Gibson is playing a version of Porter from Payback. The prison is a bizare place where inmates have guns drugs and whores with families being bought up in this hell hole, or as its described "the worlds shittyest mall". Gringo befriends a 10 year old ciggerette addicted boy who is set up to have his organs removed to save the life of the warden gangster. Their relationship is very believable and quite touching in places and the kid playing the role is excellent and very funny. Some of the best scenes are between Gibson and the boy. Mel is on top form here as a career criminal, his performance better than the actual film.
The film is violent, funny and original but changes pace in the third act but quickly gets back on track and is tied up nicely at the end. Be aware that Gibson does, or tries to do an impression of Clint Eastwood. I'll leave it for you to decide! But Vacation does work, no doubt about it and is a very enjoyable ride.
I think I'll go back and watch Egde Of Darkness and the very underated The Beaver, I'm preparation for the much anticipated Blood Father.
Before I go I'll finish by making reference to the terrible remake (or attempted reboot) of Mad Max. That film could have been pretty good if Mel was cast as the villain. It would have given it some credability at least.
Not to be confused with the rotten 1997 Rom-com of the same name, this is a decent action/adventure movie with Mel Gibson reminding us why he was once the biggest male film star in the world - oozing roguish charm and wild charisma; the supporting cast, including Kevin Hernandez as a semi-feral kid, and Dolores Heredia as the kid's mother are decent too, and the film is a high-octane experience from blistering start to slippery finish. However, this is a very cynical movie, and there is a lot of dubious morality, with Mel's character finding closure, but at the expense of innocent bystanders who are carelessly sacrificed by his amoral crook - this is of course the nature of the beast in this context, I was just disturbed by the casual killing and general smugness exhibited by a character who is clearly supposed to have the audience on his side. A sign of the times? I don't know.
Basically blacklisted by Hollywood for his reprehensible anti-Semitic utterances, Mel Gibson has decided to continue his movie career without the support of the major film studios (this movie was not released theatrically in the United States). In Get the Gringo, this has resulted in a film with an over the top, not holds barred violence that would almost certainly have been toned down if released by a major studio.
Gibson is an American (his real name is never given in the film) who is captured by the Mexican police when he is fleeing American authorities in a car chase along the border. With two million dollars in the car. He is send to El Pueblito, a prison that seems more like a third world slum market hellhole than a place of incarceration. The prisoners live among their families in slum housing conditions, and there is a big square inside with market stands. Of course not every prisoner is equal - basically the prison is run by the top gangster Javi, the prison warden being an employee of him. While learning who's on top of whom, he makes two friends in the jail, a ten year old boy - to whom he gives a cigarette (the kind of scene unlikely to be released by a major studio) and his mother. He learns the little boy has a very important personal grudge against Javi, which helps him plot his next moves. I'm not going to tell more about the plot, but it involves very violent goings-on, including an over the top Peckimpah-style shootout in the prison plaza.
Some might criticize Gibson for making Mexico looks very bad - though nothing here shows the brutality of the present drug war there - yet the American characters are not very good either (the most likable characters in the film are Mexican, the 10 year old boy and his mother).
For its style and good storytelling (the director is Adrian Grunberg, in his movie debut; Grunberg and Gibson co-wrote), I recommend this - though it is obviously not for everyone.
A low-budget return to some sort of form for Gibson, but sadly it looks cheap. Plenty of extras can't hide the fact that the movie looks like it was recorded on VHS, and the grotty Mexican prison must have accounted for much of the budget-it can't be easy to make a place and people look so awful. The action keeps the story going and the cinematography is pretty good, but I came away feeling the this was a nasty little movie about nasty little men in a nasty little prison starring a nasty little hasbeen.