David Oyelowo is surely worthy of better comedy than thisAMAZON STUDIOS

Suspension of disbelief is of paramount importance for a work of cinema. In order for the audience of a given film to look beyond the fact that they are watching a projection of actors merely pretending to be other people, in front of cameras for the most part moving around soundstages in Los Angeles, the film must offer that audience some incentive to relinquish its grip on lived reality. It can do this by promising excitement, beauty, insight, amusement, an emotional connection to its characters, or at least a constructed universe in which the audience might actually be inclined to spend some time, were they able to.

Gringo, as is obvious from the first few minutes, promises none of these things. It is almost unremittingly dull, ugly, puerile and contrived, and presents its audience with dramatis personae who are without exception vile, abrasive, dunder-headed, and impossible to imagine as real human beings. As such, one experiences Gringo not as a film, but as just under two hours in a darkened room.

“It ranks somewhere between having a tooth removed and unblocking the sink”

To suggest that something must have gone wrong during production of Gringo would be to imply that there was some hope of the project turning out well in the first place. In fact, no mortal could ever have salvaged Gringo’s screenplay. It makes the cataclysmic error of presuming that seeing ignorant, insensitive, and unpleasant characters acting ignorantly, insensitively, and unpleasantly is inherently hilarious. It is not.

The behaviour of Gringo’s characters is far more prone to inspire outrage than mirth. Right from when Harry Treadaway’s slimy, gormless, and inexplicably British prospective drugs mule callously insults a potential customer in his guitar shop for no particular reason, it is clear that we are set to be subjected to a seemingly incessant stream of foul-mouthed offensiveness from the mouths of the supporting players, entirely devoid of wit.

Trailer for GringoYOUTUBE

David Oyelowo’s protagonist, meanwhile, is dim, diffident, and incompetent, but certainly not in an endearing manner. Precisely why we are supposed to care about a man who has landed his job through nepotism, is financially irresponsible, and believes a translation device on his phone to be the best thing since sliced bread is never to any extent clear.


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One scene in Gringo takes place in disaster-torn Haiti. For a film pitching itself as a broad action-comedy, this decision could be seen as either stupid or really, really stupid. Reminding us that the millions wasted on this trash could have built schools and hospitals for people in desperate need of them is a mistake both monumentally egregious and entirely in keeping with the film’s diabolical handling of the fine art that is black comedy. For stretches, the film quite justifiably gives up on trying to be funny, incorporating a subplot related to an extra-marital affair which is overwrought, otiose, and still mainly consists of the characters being nasty to each other, yet without any good reason, flair or intelligence.

There is a car chase at the very end which is actually half-decent, and prevents Gringo from being among the very bleakest experiences of one’s life. It still, however, ranks somewhere between having a tooth removed and unblocking the sink

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