Review: Throwback crime caper ‘Gringo’ has holes

David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton star in mid-level kidnapping comedy

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

“Disfruta Mexico” — translation: enjoy Mexico — a prominently placed billboard reads in the background of a scene near the end of “Gringo.” The kidnapping comedy isn’t exactly a tourist ad for our neighbors to the south. There are scant pleasures to enjoy in this twisty caper, in which a web of characters — most of them seedy, a few of them pure, all of them dim — see their lives intersect in a trip to Mexico.

David Oyelowo, for once, gets a chance to be funny as Harold Soyinka, a down-on-his-luck middle manager at a Chicago pharmaceutical firm. His smarmy boss Richard (Joel Edgerton) is readying a sale of the company, but first he must shore up a few loose ends with his partners in a Mexican drug cartel, which puts Harold on a plane to Mexico.

Charlize Theron is on board as Richard’s icy partner; she openly mocks the overweight and hearing impaired, in case you had any doubts how you should feel about her character. Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway are on a parallel journey to Mexico that somehow keeps intersecting with Harold’s story, although why that is is never quite clear, until what feels like a tacked on happy ending.

“Gringo,” which is directed by Nash Edgerton (Joel’s brother), has the throwback feel of a ’90s crime romp; it even has a severed toe for added Coen Brothers vibes. The minor payoffs — Sharlto Copley is a welcome presence as Richard’s mercenary brother, and it’s a kick to see Oyelowo rap along with “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” — are outweighed by the broad characterizations and story inconsistencies. Movies like this need to be airtight, but “Gringo” is a flimsy piece of pulp fiction.

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Rated R for language throughout, violence and sexual content

Running time: 110 minutes