The trailers for Gringo suggested a Nigerian man named Harold, low on money, would be running an errand for his bosses and find himself kidnapped in Mexico by a drug cartel.
That’s not quite what happened. Was what happened any good?
Harold Soyinka (David Olyelowo) is a nice guy, but he’s broke. Why? His wife (Thandie Newton) spends all their money and then some, and he’s got nothing to speak of. He’s a mid-level guy for a large pharmaceutical giant working as a go-between for the company’s Chicago home base and a manufacturing plant in Mexico. He hears a rumor that his friend and boss Richard (Joel Edgerton) may be going for a merger with another company that will leave many employees fired, and both Richard and another executive named Elaine (Charlize Theron) are going with Harold for his latest trip south of the border. Their next big release is a medical marijuana pill, and the only reason Harold’s bosses are going is to tell the plant manager to cut off the local drug cartel since the company doesn’t need their money anymore. That…clearly is not a good idea.
However, a suspicious Harold manages to learn that not only is he going to be fired by his “good friend” Richard, but his wife is having an affair and leaving him. It isn’t a surprise who she is sleeping with. Harold has lived his whole life playing by the rules, and it has gotten him nothing.
So, what if he faked his own kidnapping to get some ransom money?
What follows is a movie that tracks Harold as he moves through Mexico, the real cartel that actually is looking to get him for their own purposes, and Richard’s general reluctance to pay the ransom. And then there’s a lot of stuff involving Elaine and Richard and the merger. Truth be told, had the movie stayed with Harold for the entire run time, this might have made for a better movie. The merger stuff, along with Richard and Elaine’s personal relationships with each other and other people, felt like real distractions. Olyelowo gave a fairly winning comedic performance as a guy who was starting to realize how much the world crapped on him for no good reason, finally trying to get some of his own back. There’s another subplot involving a young tourist looking to smuggle drugs across the border that wastes Amanda Seyfried as the innocent girlfriend who doesn’t know what her sketchy boyfriend is actually doing in Mexico, and Sharlto Copley has a nice turn as Richard’s ex-mercenary brother Mitch who wants to turn over a new leaf and do good in the world before his penny-pinching brother sends him to Mexico. But really, too many plots that don’t add up to much when all is said and done, and a lot of jokes that were probably funnier on paper than they were in performance. 6.5 out of 10 animal allegories.