[FILM: Interview] Get The Gringo
Get The Gringo
Don’t Call It A Comeback
By Rob Newcombe
Although it’s his first feature at the helm, Get The Gringo director Adrian Grunberg’s impressive resume includes a number of collaborations with Mel Gibson, including a gig as first assistant director on his 2006 Mayan epic Apocalypto. So naturally, when Gibson approached Grunberg with an idea for a screenplay and an offer to co-write and direct it with him, he was happy to oblige. Like many who have worked with Gibson (with notable recent exceptions), Grunberg speaks highly of the man.
“First of all, he’s a friend. We’ve been working together pretty closely for six or seven years, firstly on Apocalypto, and then shortly after when we began working on this. It was probably two or three years of collaborating on this one, so we work really well together now. Add to that the fact that I was getting to work with Mel as an actor, and have his expertise on board as a director, and the whole thing was a very attractive package for me.”
The result is the grubby, Peckinpah-esque thriller Get The Gringo, which was originally titled What I Did On My Summer Vacation – a more appropriately noir-ish title, but one Grunberg says might have proved tonally confusing for audiences. Indeed, the ‘vacation’ in question is actually an enforced term in Mexican prison El Pueblito, which has its own thriving black-market economy. Locked up over a botched heist Stateside, career criminal Driver (Gibson) meets up with a tough-talking nine-year-old and his mother (El Pueblito’s inmates are allowed to bring their families with them) and resolves to protect them from ruling crime lord Javi, while trying to finagle back his missing loot. While the setting might seem far-fetched, it was, in fact, the real-life El Pueblito that provided the genesis of the story.
“When Mel first approached me about this movie, he’d been reading a lot about the Mexican prison system, and had the idea of telling the story of an American in a Mexican prison. So our El Pueblito is based on the real El Pueblito, which is the state prison in Tijuana. It started out as a social experiment, the idea being that if the inmates were allowed to have their family around it would be a great help in their rehabilitation and reintegration. If you think about it, it’s a great concept; but for whatever reason it went wrong and El Pueblito ended up being the black sheep of the Mexican prison system.”
‘Black Sheep’ is a pretty adequate description of Gibson’s Driver as well; a hard-bitten bank-robber, he’s the sort of unhinged anti-hero that used to be Gibson’s stock in trade before his move behind the camera and his well-documented personal problems over the last decade or so. The last time we saw Gibson in a role like this was Porter in 1999’s Payback, and fans of that movie might find more than a few similarities between the two characters: the military background, the much-reviled ex-wife, the penchant for spouting terse witticisms in voice-over. Grunberg is quick to scotch any notions that Get The Gringo is an unofficial sequel, though.
“We didn’t have Porter in mind at all; I’ve read a lot of people speculating about that, actually. I guess I can see the similarities, but it was never the intention for the character to be Porter. You know, as a writer who likes those kinds of characters, it’s easy to get to someone like Porter; in many ways he’s a broad anti-hero, and so is Driver. But it’s also Mad Max, it’s Riggs from Lethal Weapon – it’s just very Mel. More than Porter, Driver is very Mel, and it’s great to see him back in that kind of role.”
What: Get The Gringo
When: Opens May 31
Posted: May 29th, 2012 under Arts, Arts - Interview, Arts Feature, Brag 464 (May 28), Film Reviews.
Tags: Adrian Grunberg, Arts, Arts Feature, Film, Get The Gringo, interview, Mel Bibson, Review, Rob Newcombe