Gringo

Posted on March 8, 2018 at 12:39 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language throughout, violence and sexual content
Profanity: Constant very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drugs and drug dealing, alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Constant peril and violence with many graphic and disturbing images, characters injured and killed, guns, car chases and crashes, torture, kidnapping
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: March 9, 2018
Copyright Amazon 2018

“Gringo” is the story of a hapless dupe named Harold (David Oyelowo, showing deft comic timing) who gets stuck in the middle of a lot of bad people and bad decisions.

Harold is an immigrant from Nigeria, married to Bonnie (Thandie Newton, criminally underused), and in financial trouble. “Are you saying I’m cash poor?” Harold asks his accountant. “No, I’m saying you’re poor poor, ,” he replies.

The accountant also tells Harold that his company may be merging, and he could lose his job. But Harold reassures himself that his boss Rich (Joel Edgerton) is an old friend, who has even hired Bonnie to decorate his apartment, and will not let him down. Rich reassures him as well, reminding him that he promised Harold’s life would look like a rap video if he stayed at the company. It’s obvious to us that Rich is a crook and a liar, but Harold has no clue.

Rich’s co-president of the company is Elaine (Charlize Theron, having a lot of fun as a ruthless executive whose self-pep talk includes “Who’s Daddy’s Blue Ribbon girl?”). They come along on Harold’s business trip to Mexico, where the company’s marijuana-based pills are manufactured. That merger means the end of lucrative off-the-books sales to a powerful drug dealer. And that leads to mayhem involving a fake kidnapping, a real kidnapping, a toe sent by international mail, a murder for failing to give the right answer to a question about which Beatles album is the best, a mercenary, and many betrayals.

Nash Edgerton (Joel’s brother) directs with high energy and clearly relishes very dark humor of the story, with many twists and turns as the various bad guys collide with each other. Paris Jackson (Michael’s daughter) has an impressive cameo as a girl enticing a hapless guitar salesman into helping her steal some of those marijuana pills. If you like your crime stories to be nicely nasty, this one does the trick.

Parents should know that this film includes extensive and graphic violence, chases, shootouts, torture, disturbing images, many characters injured and killed, drugs and drug dealing, alcohol, very explicit sexual references and situations, and very strong and crude language.

Family discussion: Was Harold’s father wrong? Why was it hard for him to see what was happening? What is the point of the banana/carrot story?

If you like this, try: “Big Trouble” and “Midnight Run” and, also from the Edgerton brothers, “The Square” (not the recent Cannes award-winner, the Australian crime drama)

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Fruitvale Station

Posted on July 18, 2013 at 5:51 pm

The sadly timely release of Sundance award-winner “Fruitvale Station” begins with the shocking real-life cell phone footage shot in a San Francisco subway station on New Year’s Eve 2008.  A young black man named Oscar Grant was handcuffed and lying on the ground when he was shot and killed by a policeman.fruitvale-station

We then go back in time to see how Grant (a star-making performance by Michael B. Jordan of “The Wire”) spent the last day of his life.  First-time writer-director Ryan Coogler creates an intimate, documentary feeling to the story, candid in its portrayal of a young man who has made some mistakes (he was a drug dealer, he has served time in prison, he cheated on his girlfriend, he gets fired for being late).  But, with a transcendent performance by Jordan, we see that Grant was a devoted son and father who wants very much to be the man his mother, girlfriend, and daughter deserve.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceVVVils8z4

We follow him through the day, seeing him charmingly assist a woman at the grocery story by calling his grandmother to advise her on a recipe, celebrating at the birthday party for his mother (Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer), and defusing a tense situation with a store owner.  And all that time, we know he will be dead in the earliest hours of 2009. By the time it happens, we are different people than we were the first time we saw him get shot.  We care about Oscar in a way that will make it harder to jump to conclusions about a young black man ever again.

Parents should know that this film includes some strong language, sexual references and situations, drug dealing, and a shocking murder.

Family discussion: Why was Oscar Grant shot?  Do you agree with the punishment for the man who shot him?  How does this relate to the debate over the verdict in the George Zimmerman/Treyvon Martin case?

If you like this, try:  Melonie Diaz in “Raising Victor Vargas”

 

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