Cast: Mel Gibson,Kevin Hernandez,Dolores Heredia,Daniel Gimenez Cacho, Peter Stormare
Running time: 95 mins
The lowdown: Mel Gibson’s back in mad mode to play a career criminal called Driver who is grabbed by the Mexican authorities and incarcerated in a hardcore prison where he learns to survive with the help of a 10-year-old boy. However, a gang of heavies – led by Peter Stormare – are heading down Mexico way to retrieve the $2m that Driver stole from a crime boss.
The full verdict: It’s a shame about Mel. That trademark temper and tendency to badmouth anyone not white, male, Catholic or Mel has landed him in hot water again (at the time of writing it is Basic Instinct writer Joe Eztherhas accusing him of bigotry).
All of which means this may be Gibson’s leading man swansong as the American movie going public tires of his outbursts; in the US How I Spent My Summer Vacation, under the title Get the Gringo, was unceremoniously dumped onto video-on-demand.
A shame then as this is Gibson’s best movie since the underrated Payback back in 1999. Flashing the trademark grin, mad blue eyes and easy screen charisma, he packages elements of Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs along with Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name into a prison break revenge thriller that even saddles the Anger Issues Aussie with a spunky kid sidekick and makes it work.
Opening during a post heist high speed border chase, the film keeps the pedal to the metal throughout as Gibson’s Driver finds himself in a bizarre Mexican prison-cum-lawless village straight out of Sam Peckinpah.
An initially fractious relationship with the spunky kid (Hernandez) teaches Driver how to survive in the Big House and gives him a shot at some kind of redemption when it transpires the lad and his mum are being targeted by Javi (Cacho), the prison’s Mr Big.
Not helping matters is Peter Stormare’s mob boss Frank, coming after both Driver and Javi for his missing loot and willing to rip apart Mexico to get at it.
Gibson’s regular assistant director Grunberg assuredly picks up the megaphone, directing with a breathless dynamism and “hot” reds and oranges that keep the pressure and danger on a constant boil.
Comfortable with the climactic action set-piece when the heat really comes down, Grunberg also enjoys staging a tense build-up; witness how small details and sounds conjoin for an earlier three-pronged ambush.
Lean, mean and pared to the bone, this doesn’t bother giving Driver, the kid or the kid’s mum names and a subplot about organ theft both ups the suspense ante and gives the climax a killer punchline.
All of which bodes well for Gibson’s supporting role in Machete Kills, and leaves you wanting to shout at the screen, “Mel, just shut up and act…”.
This review originally published on skymovies.com