El Gringo, 2012.
Directed by Eduardo Rodriguez.
Starring Scott Adkins, Christian Slater, Yvette Yates, Petar Bachvarov and Zahary Baharov.
A man crossing into Mexico with a satchel of $2,000,000, and a bloody past, finds himself under sudden attack in the sleepy town of El Fronteras.
Joel Silver has lent his name to some of the most memorable action blockbusters of the last thirty years, including Lethal Weapon and The Matrix. Normally, or at least back in the day, a Silver pic would mean a big budget and plenty of spectacle. In the last year, Silver put his name to a collection of lower budget action films, which despite very limited theatrical releases in the US, were basically made as straight to DVD. These included Dragon Eyes with Jean Claude Van Damme and Stash House with Dolph Lundgren, as well as El Gringo with up and coming action man Scott Adkins.
Echoing the Mel Gibson film Get the Gringo (also known as How I Spent My Summer Vacation), with a dash of Desperado, El Gringo is a straight up action film that provides ample amounts of punchy, bloody violence. There’s very little plot in this, and it is virtually lifted from the Gibson film in any case, with Adkins (starring as “The Man”) fleeing into a Mexican border town with a load of dirty money and trying to avoid arousing the attention of the locals. He of cause fails and all hell breaks loose. This however is just all a bit too rote. It’s little more than a poor copy of a better, more established film. That may not be anything surprising in the straight to video world, but the script is incredibly lazy. Likewise the other Silver flicks in his After Dark Films action canon were also inferior knock offs of better movies (for Stash House, see Panic Room).
This feels stale and not just because we’ve seen it all before, but also the style of the film is just too formulaic. It’s shot and cut in a manner that’s 10 years out of date, but was never really that much in fashion either. The editing is poor, intrusive and lacking any sort of rhythm and subtlety. Call them Avid farts if you wish, but this film is most certainly filled with the pungent whiff of Avid flatulence. If it’s supposed to count as style, or flair, then I’m afraid it wasn’t for me.
Despite its flaws, the film isn’t without merit though. Scott Adkins rise is in its early stages, and Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning is more likely to get him noticed than this one, but he’s still pretty decent here. As far as martial arts actors go, in their formative years, he’s a solid actor. He probably, at the moment, lacks the screen presence and charisma of a Van Damme or a Lundgren. However, Adkin’s main forte of course is his on screen fighting prowess which is well used here. There’s some nice fights and good choreography, even if on occasion the editing detracts from them. There’s some very good action scenes though, particularly one long sequence in the film’s middle where Adkins takes out about 30 gang members with considerable aplomb. Not only that, but the film refreshingly goes for in camera action and plenty of practical blood effects, rather than opting for CGI blood. It’s good to see the corn syrup flowing in ways that would make Paul Verhoeven proud.
The remainder of the cast are serviceable. Yvette Yates is the films low budget answer to Salma Hayek (for two obvious reasons!) and Christian Slater appears to remind people he’s still alive. As the established name of the piece you’d expect Slater to have more of an impact, but his role is uninteresting and he phones it in.
Director Eduardo Rodriguez handles proceedings pretty efficiently, without really doing anything great, but his grip on the action is solid enough. There’s not much of a screenplay for him to work with. The film looks okay, opting for high exposure to try and make the film seem like it’s shot in Mexico and not Bulgaria. It succeeds on that count.
In all this isn’t brilliant. It’s probably the most entertaining of Silver’s straight to video After Dark films, but that’s not particularly saying much. It seems little more than a quick, cheap, money making exercise, as is the case with all of the After Dark films really. However, thanks to Adkins’ ability and some neat action, this may well provide enough thrills to pass 90 minutes if you’re bored enough, but in truth you’re better off watching Mel Gibson’s version.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★