Mel Gibson's return to the big screen in front of the camera recent years seems to be getting back on track. He's taken a large knock for various well publicized and controversial allegations and abuses, but those seem to have taken a back seat like how the lacklustre Edge of Darkness has been largely forgotten for more memorable fare and smaller films like The Beaver, and Get the Gringo, also known as How I Spend My Summer Vacation here. Count yourselves lucky all you Mel Gibson fans who are still out there, we're one of the few countries getting this in the cinemas as the USA had opted for a video-on-demand release instead.
Gibson does what Gibson does best as a character here, being the strong, silent type who relies on his brains, brawn and resourcefulness to get out of sticky situations. Innate abilities and a huge dose of luck also play their part in having his nameless Driver attempting to outwit, outlast and outsmart his way past Mexican and American gangsters, crooked cops, and ambiguous agents, in order to regain his freedom after being locked up in a Mexican penitentiary that is a mini-town in its own right, complete with the folks from both sides of the law making strange bedfellows. It's a glimpse into the murky world of corruption where criminals run rampant within the walls that are supposed to restrict their freedom, but instead turning the premises into fiefs of operations.
Based on a story written by Mel Gibson, Stacy Perskie and Adrian Grunberg, with the latter making his debut directorial feature after deputizing for numerous films, it has all the ingredients necessary to stand tall amongst this season of summer blockbusters, with a tale that keeps you guessing of the Driver's backgrounds and motivations, which soon dissolve into the basic theme of friendship developed with a nine year old Kid (Kevin Hernandez) who holds a certain secret that keeps him alive within a notorious place, and who may just be Driver's ticket out if the cards get played right. Needless to say the villains here were unfortunately relegated to single function caricatures, but thankfully the plot picks up the pace when we get to witness how Driver and the Kid work their way through the system, with subplots bubbling under the surface ready to explode in frantic rush to the finale.
There are some moments that sag though, as Grunberg just cannot lift the film's early act from droning rather repetitively on how tough and gritty the entire corrupt environment is through Driver's voiceovers. We get the point, and it's time to move on, only to find more scenes seemingly adamant in wanting to showcase just how miserable life can get in a corrupt prison system. It took a while to have elements set up and put in place, although you'd get to appreciate the efforts it took to gel all character relationships together, with Grunberg adopting a style especially in the beginning with its quick edits cutting very close to how Tony Scott would have stylistically done it if the latter was at the helm.
For all the action that the trailer promises, what truly stood out was a mid section, free for all shoot-em-up complete with its graphical depiction of bullet wounds flying all around, entering and exiting various points of the body, and the requisite slow motion to keep things watchable, not forgetting having the Driver break his cover on his background having to save the Kid and his mother (Dolores Heredia) from gunfire coming at all sides. While conveniently set up, how the Driver wiped his enemies from existence thanks to a little bit of play acting and impersonation became my favourite scenes in the entire film, with Gibson at his element flexing some comedic abilities that just sat through really well and dare I say lifted this film from being just average. Recommended!