Main cast: Scott Adkins (The Man), Yvette Yates (Anna), Israel Islas (Culebra), Erando González (Chief Espinoza), Sofia Sisniega (Flaca), Valentin Ganev (Deputy Chief Logan), and Christian Slater (Lt West)
Director: Eduardo Rodriguez
I haven’t really watched a good no-holds barred rough-and-tumble action movie for a while, and I’m talking about movies with straight-to-video B-grade pretensions without overdoing the whole CGI-type explosions and action sequences. I was hoping that the grindhouse-style El Gringo would be that movie to light my fire, but there is always something missing to it at the end of the day.
This movie is pretty basic. We have our unnamed hero, simply called The Man in the credits, who shows up one fine day in the Mexican town of La Frontera with a bag containing two million dollars. It isn’t long before he’s caught between the local drug cartel and the corrupt sheriff’s thugs. And all he wants is a glass of water and a bus to Acapulco, the poor thing. Of course, as the movie progresses, details about The Man’s past and how he ended up in this place with all that money are revealed.
The movie has a low budget, and it shows. Not that it should matter whether the cast have only one set of clothes or the injuries sustained by the characters during shoot-out scenes can often look really artificial, as long as this movie has guts and glory. But while there are occasional moments of clever humor and playful tributes to other more established flicks of this nature, for a long time this movie just meanders around due to a script that often fails to capitalize on its occasional clever moments. The punchline often misses the beat or doesn’t show up at all, if you know what I mean.
For example, for a long time the movie builds up the Man’s increasing desperation for a glass of water to comical levels, but there is no pay-off at all as he eventually gets his glass of water with little fuss. There is a running gag of the character Flaca constantly trying to steal The Man’s bag, but that one also peters off eventually, as if the director and scriptwriters have no idea what to do with that particular gag and decide to just drop it. There are also several interesting secondary characters here, but they don’t have much to do other than to stand around and occasionally interact with The Man.
Scott Adkins make a pretty decent action hero. He looks like Adam Sandler from certain angles of the camera, but he exudes a solid presence needed for the character he is playing. He doesn’t have much to do here, like the rest of the cast, as the script never takes advantage of its interesting roster of characters to get the party really started, but he’s pretty serviceable in the lead role. It’s a shame that he doesn’t get to be more physical here, as he’s usually that kind of guy you call to do the splits and kick some butts now that Jean-Claude Van Damme is getting on with the years. Maybe this is why I find myself distracted by The Man’s undershirt in this movie, or more specifically, how it keeps changing from being covered with dirt and blood in one scene to being pristine white in the next. What I can I say, I’m bored and it’s a pretty nice undershirt to look at.
The other members of the cast are also serviceable. One thing though: Christian Slater’s role is actually small for someone who is listed in the main credits, and he mostly chews scenery here.
At any rate, El Gringo is an average movie that is passable enough to watch while killing some time. It might have been better, I don’t know, if something interesting actually happens here. So far, it’s all a bag of missed opportunities.