Bad movies always start with bad scripts — poorly conceived characters, inane scenes, drab dialogue.
“Gringo” doubles down on disastrous by casting some seriously unfunny people as those unfunny characters. Nobody in this Australian-directed, multi-national cast caper comedy is known for his or her comic chops.
Not Charlize Theron, as a man-eating Mean Girl of a pharmaceutical chief, not Joel Edgerton, as her swaggering, womanizing Massengill of a partner, not Thandie Newton or Amanda Seyfried, though they at least can do comedy when it’s not written by the humorless, and most certainly not David Oyelowo, so noble as Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma,” so utterly out of his depth here.
Everybody’s bad, playing bad dialogue in bad scenes that have little reason to exist other than “We need to get this dog up to 100 minutes running time.”
It’s an absurdly-over-populated, over-complicated kidnapping action comedy in which Oyelowo plays a hapless, cuckolded mid-level manager for a company about to go BIG into medical marijuana in pill form (“Cannabex!”), and merge with another, larger firm.
That will probably put Harold (Oyelowo) out of a job, not that his old pal Richard (Edgerton) would tip him off about that. Richard’s a real Dick, and is too busy sleeping with Harold’s wife to care. And with his partner, Elaine (Theron).
Harold’s only play, he thinks, is to fake his kidnapping in Mexico and cash out the company insurance policy against such an eventuality. He might be up to pulling this off (though not amusingly), but it seems the local cartels are actually hellbent on kidnapping him themselves. They need the formula for the pot pills.
Seyfried is a guitar shop clerk whose boyfriend (Harry Treadaway) has been suckered into making a pill “pick up” for U.S. drug dealers, “a free trip to Mexico” is all he tells Sunny, his girl.
And Sharlto Copley is Richard’s supposedly reformed mercenary brother who now does humanitarian aid work, but gets abruptly called in to free Harold from whoever may or may not actually have him kidnapped in Mexico.
Edgerton’s “Animal Kingdom” director brother Nash is behind the camera, a man not unlike Ava DuVernay when it comes to having no clue about a comic touch, pacing and trimming the flab off a positively leaden movie that needs to be light on its feet.
A drug lord interrupts his debate over “the best Beatles album” by lopping off an uncooperative factory boss’s toe, Harold doesn’t speak the language and is constantly victimized (not really) by the locals, who talk of how they’ll scam him in “Mexican.” Neither of these Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis (the hacks who wrote it) gags works.
The one proven funny guy here is Yul Vasquez, a memorable gay bully on “Seinfeld,” reduced to being a stiff of a mob minion hunting for Harold, too.
Oscar-winner Theron wears a lot of makeup and delivers decolletage — bra-revealing outfits — in come-on scenes, sex scenes and general Beauty Queen insolence.
“Fat people are SOooo funny!”
Not her best line, but almost.
Absolutely nothing about “Gringo” works. Well, maybe one decent car crash pays off. The performances, situations, dialogue and story beats are just flung at the screen in the vain hope that something sticks.
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, violence and sexual content
Cast: Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton, David Oyelowo, Thandie Newton, Sharlto Copley
Credits:Directed by Nash Edgerton, script by Matthew Stone and Anthony Tambakis. An Amazon Studios release.
Running time: 1:50