Written by Mel Gibson, Stacy Perskie, and Adrain Grunberg – who also directed the film – How I Spent My Summer Vacation or Get the Gringo was a “straight-to-Video-on-Demand” project that Gibson claimed was done because, “We’re just in a different era. Many people just like to see things in their homes….I think it’s the future.” [Los Angeles Times] It was screened in the UK and a few other countries but in the US (where his biggest critics reside) it was VoD.
I am not sure if Mel is right or if he was just hedging his bets after a massive fall in popularity following his divorce, separation, racist behaviour and other negative publicity. Gibson’s last few years have been more scandal ridden than film ridden and it seems that he is attempting to claw his way back into favour with his (few remaining) fans.
Set in the world of the infamous (and now closed) El Pueblito Prison in Tijuana Mexico, Gibson plays a nameless professional thief who escapes from the Texas law by crashing through the border fence between Texas and Mexico with millions in stolen cash and his mortally wounded partner.
Once they land on the Mexican side of the border, the Federales are all ready to turn Gibson, and his now dead partner, over to the Texas border police when they spy the bags of stolen money. In that moment, the Federales change their minds and take Gibson and his partner into custody.
Gibson winds up in El Pueblito prison which is more like a criminal village behind bars. Where practically anything can be bought and prisoners walk around with guns and run the prison. Once in, Gibson’s character must survive and escape or he’ll be buried in the prison and never see freedom again.
Gibson is the only “real” name in the film, apart from Peter Stormare who has a cameo as the “big boss” he stole the money from. The rest of the cast all look familiar but aren’t anyone I’ve ever heard of. The boy who plays doomed liver donor (Kevin Hernandez) does a brilliant job as the cigarette mooching aide-de-camp of Gibson’s nameless con.
When I saw the film, it was on Netflix and I vaguely remembered seeing a trailer or two for it on other DVD’s. Until watching it, I’d never heard of El Pueblito although I knew that prisons were run differently “south of the border.”
Author Joseph Waumbaugh, in his excellent non-fiction book Lines and Shadows, tells of how two policemen interrogate prisoners in Mexico. The prisoner is tied to a chair and has his head forced back. While one Federale holds the head, the other will open a bottle of Coke. After shaking said bottle the top is then held under the prisoners nose. A fountain of soda spritzes up the nose and into the sinuses. An extremely painful experience that results in a 100% confession rate.
When a Mexican prison rioted in the 70’s television cameras showed crates of Coca-Cola being shipped into the prison. The riot was quelled without having a single shot fired or baton raised.
Having this in the back of my head while watching the film, made me believe that conditions like those shown could, in fact, be true and they were. Just enter el pueblito in the Google search engine; it was shut down in 2002 and was very close to how the prison was depicted in the movie.
Historical references aside, Gibson plays another character like “Parker” (based on the Donald Westlake books) who is a professional crook and also ex-military sniper. In other words, a character that he could play in his sleep. It never felt like a huge stretch for Mel and it featured bits of humour that were reminiscent of his Lethal Weapon films.
The film features a narration by Gibson and it does help move the film along and is not too obtrusive. I, as a rule, don’t care for too many “narration” films; it can get a bit annoying to be treated to a constant voice over, especially if the actor doing said narrative isn’t very good.
All in all the film was very entertaining and fun to watch. I’d have to give it a 4 out of 5 stars just because I felt that Gibson was reverting to playing a role that, as I said above, he could have sleep walked through.
Will this film move him up in his fan’s estimations or is he wasting his time on a career that’s been ruined by too much adverse publicity? Only time will tell and if he can manage to keep his less savoury antics under control he just might be able to repair the damage. What do you think?
- ‘Expendables 3′: Stallone On Mel Gibson Directing; Wesley Snipes and Joe Taslim Cast? (screenrant.com)
- Movie News: Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson for Expendables 3? (news.directv.com)