Friday, March 16, 2018

David Oyelowo shines in Edgerton/Tambakis/ Stone's so-so action/comedy/thriller, GRINGO

A movie you can sit back and somewhat enjoy, even as you almost immediately begin trying to figure out why it isn't working as well as it should, GRINGO -- directed by Nash Edgerton (shown below) from a screenplay by Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone -- derives that enjoyment from a cleverly concocted plot that keeps unfurling in ways that surprise and pleasure and from a cast of usually first-rate performers. The mis-firing arrives via very low-end dialog that rarely rises to the level of the plot and from that pack of actors, only three of which manage to outdo their so-so script with performances energized enough to keep this contraption going.

The most important of those three performers would be the movie's real star and main character, Harold, played by David Oyelowo, shown below, who has saved many a movie with his on-the-nose talent and charisma.

If you've never seen this fine actor in The Paperboy (a vastly under-rated movie), do watch it and marvel.

While Oyelowo can do wonderful work, even in a stodgy, paint-by-number biopic like Selma, it is in smaller, more original movies such as HBOs Nighingale, A United Kingdom, and Five Nights in Maine that he can really shine. As he does here in Gringo, as well as in The Cloverfield Paradox, that recent Netflix-streamed movie that received bad reviews but is much better and more intelligent than you will have heard.

The other two actors who most help make Gringo bearable are the increasingly versatile Sharlto Copley (below, right, with Oyelowo), who plays the chief villain's (sort of) good-guy brother with boundless energy and wit, and Carlos Corona, playing the greatly feared drug lord known as The Black Panther (who has quite an obsession with The Beatles) with just the right combo of sinister charm and oddball humor.

Otherwise, the rest of the fine cast (both leads and supporting), which includes Charlize Theron (below) and Joel Edgerton (the director's brother) are all adequate, but mostly we keep waiting for them to somehow burst out of their scenes with a little more relish and pizzazz. This never happens, though it occasionally comes close enough to tease us rather unmercifully.

Yet that cleverly contrived plot, together with Mr. Oyelowo, may be enough to get a lot of viewers past the mid-point and through to the end. They did me. And since I used my Moviepass to purchase a ticket (and now make sure I go the the movies at least 5 times a month), each film costs me two bucks. Every theater (except one) in our local area allows Moviepass to be used, so this relatively new service strikes me as unbeatable for movie-lovers who are on a tight budget.

Meanwhile, Gringo, from Amazon Studios and STX Entertainment, opened last week, nationwide, and is probably still playing in a few theaters. Click here to find one near you.

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