out of Five
Running time: 95
Watchable, smartly directed thriller with an efficient, pared-down script and a strong performance from Gibson, though it's also a little too slick for its own good and the lack of character detail is occasionally frustrating.
What's it all about?
Directed by Adrian Grunberg, How I Spent My Summer Vacation (or Get the Gringo, US title fans) stars Mel Gibson as an unnamed career criminal who gets busted after a heist and is promptly thrown into a Mexican slum-like jail known as El Pueblito (think season three of Prison Break). Quickly scoping out all the angles, he decides that the key to his escape is to cause as much trouble as possible for prison-running criminal Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho), but his plans are complicated when he befriends a 10 year old kid (Kevin Hernandez, from The Sitter) and his exploited mother (Dolores Heredia).
Meanwhile, vicious criminal boss Frank (Peter Stormare) figures out who stole from him and sends hired goons to El Pueblito to retrieve his money, unaware that two corrupt cops appropriated the stash after making the arrest.
Gibson may be dead set on torpedoing his Hollywood career in real life, but How I Spent My Summer Vacation proves there's still life in the old dog yet when it comes to grizzled, seemingly unflappable anti-heroes. He also has likeable chemistry with young Kevin Fernandez, while there's strong support from Gimenez Cacho, Stormare and Bob Gunton as a businessman caught up in an elaborate escape plot.
The pared-down script (co-written by Gibson, Grunberg and Stacy Perskie) dispenses with back story and character development in favour of slickly directed, cleverly edited action sequences, punctuated with witty dialogue and the occasional shoot-out. There are also several nice off-the-wall touches, plus you get to see Gibson doing the world's least convincing Clint Eastwood impression.
The main problem with the film is that we never really get to know the main character (the name he eventually gives is obviously false, something that's brought home with an unnecessarily unpleasant coda), with the script even refusing to shed any light on how Gibson's character wound up in a car chase dressed as a clown in the opening sequence. The result of this is that any supposed redemption (in terms of his bond with Fernandez and Heredia) feels empty and lacks emotional impact, since we can only guess at what sort of man he was in the past.
Slick direction and a strong performance from Gibson ensure that How I Spent My Summer Vacation remains watchable throughout, but it ultimately lacks emotional impact thanks to its frustratingly enigmatic central character.