Holidaying in prison
How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2012)
Duration: 96 minutes
Directed by: Adrian Grunberg
Starring: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Dolores Heredia, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris, Bob Gunton, Peter Gerety, Scott Cohen
Known in the US as Get The Gringo, How I Spent My Summer Vacation has been hailed by many as a return to form for Mel Gibson.
The film opens promisingly but disappointed me by the end: it is a chaotic collection of clichés which just looks like a pretentious exercise.
Director Adrian Grunberg is clearly influenced by Quentin Tarantino and Sam Peckinpah; in fact, he seems more focused on emulating these directors than injecting some feelings into the movie.
Mr Gibson is here simply known as Driver and throughout the film he is called mostly Gringo. After crossing the Mexican border illegally, carrying millions in cash, he ends up arrested by a couple of corrupt cops who leave him to rot in prison while they take the cash. Sporting no identity and no fingerprints, he finds that El Pueblito is a unique prison indeed.
It is run by crooks and gangsters with the primary mover and shaker being the wacky Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho). The latter is about to undergo a liver transplant operation.
That is when Driver makes friends with Kid (Kevin Hernandez), a cigarette-addicted nine-year-old boy who is Javi’s organ donor and whose mother (Dolores Heredia) works reluctantly for the criminal.
Meanwhile, a businessman in the US called Frank (Peter Stormare) wants his cash back and is ready to send armed killers to the prison to get it back.
Driver has limited time to get his act together and save his skin, get the boy and his mother and get the cash!
El Pueblito is based on a real-life prison in Tijuana, Mexico, that was more like a mob-controlled neighbourhood with drugs, prostitution and families joining the inmates. It is simply a perfect setting: it is lurid and spicy enough to grip our interest.
The film is shot in the same HD style of Mr Gibson’s Apocalypto (2006) but it lacks inspiration and we are left with a feeling of detachedness.
When a shoot-out occurs and innocents start getting shot to bits, we are not all that concerned, it just forms part of the background scenery.
Mr Gibson as Driver is a man with no name, a Clint Eastwood-inspired move no doubt as seen in the last part of the film.
The problem with his character is that the film tries to make us feel for the guy, however, both his running commentary and his attitude are simply too cocky.
He is in too much in control over the situation to deserve any empathy or genuine concern from our part.
When Mr Eastwood had done in this role back in his younger days or, more recently, Ryan Gosling in Drive, there was still a feeling that the hero could lose, be hurt and get us to care.
This is missing in this picture.
I really like Mr Gibson as an actor but here he places no emotion, no earnestness in his dialogue and thus he looks more like a superhero who is happily trouncing all the bad guys from here to yesteryear.