Magazine article Screen International

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Magazine article Screen International

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Article excerpt

Dir: Adrian Grunberg. US. 2011. 94mins

Mel Gibson smartly returns to down-and-dirty action-drama with How I Spent My Summer Vacation, and a good move it is. Those who like Mel in shooting/fighting/grenade-throwing mode will enjoy this violent noir thriller that hits the ground running and barely takes breath to break its forward momentum.

Gibson handles the role with his usual physical grace and gritty charm.

The film has opened in Israel and the Middle East prior to a European launch in May, though in the US it is scheduled to go straight to VOD, and has been retitled Get The Gringo. Perhaps the Mel Gibson brand is not what it once was - with his current spat with screenwriter Joe Eszterhas getting press attention - but one would think this solid action romp should find a cinema audience in the US.

There is no denying, though, that fans of Gibson in the Lethal Weapon films as well as his darkly violent 1999 hit Payback - to which How I Spent My Summer Vacation feels like a sort-of sequel - will enjoy the tough action on show here. The lack of a name supporting cast (Peter Stormare crops up for a few memorable scenes) puts the film fair-and-square on Gibson's shoulders, but it is a sound move playing to the action fans who were always the core of his fanbase.

The credits list Mel's character simply as 'Driver', and though he has no formal name in the film he does adopt a couple of other identities (Richard Johnson and Reginald T Barnes) to help further his criminal career.

The film opens in spectacular style. US police are chasing a car along the Mexican border. At the wheel is a guy in a clown mask, while in the back seat is another guy in a clown mask...clutching a bagful of money and with a nasty looking chest-wound. Driver flips the car through the border wall where he is promptly arrested by the Mexican police, who lick their lips at the sight of the cash.

Packed off to a hard-core Mexican prison named El Pueblito, he is bemused to find it run like a small town, with men, women and children all sharing space, but with gang lord Javi (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) running things with an iron fist. But if there is one things Driver knows how to do it is survive, and he sets about stealing money and observing how the brutal prison gangs work, getting more than a little assistance from a 10 year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez, who featured in The Sitter recently) who lives in the prison with his mother.

But the outside world is about to descend on El Pueblito. Driver stole $2million from San Diego gangster Frank (Peter Stormare) and he wants it back, and sends a three-man team of gun-toting hitmen into the prison to try and take Driver out. …

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