How I Spent My Summer Vacation

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

****

Reviewed by: Merlin Harries

For those familiar with Brian Helgeland’s brilliant Payback (1999), the character of Driver (Mel Gibson) will be immediately familiar. The inscrutable rapscallion brings Porter, über-antihero of Payback, instantly to mind. How I Spent My Summer Vacation, or Get The Gringo, the perhaps more apt alternative title, is littered with the unceremoniously bad-tempered, foul-mouthed one-liners and witticisms that made Porter such a surprisingly likeable character. Such immediate nuances of Porter, coupled with shades of Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon), make for a darkly comical protagonist. From the look of singular poise when unloading his handgun, to the inimitable nonchalance when tossing a live hand-grenade, much of the film’s merit stems from the idiosyncratic tropes of Gibson’s history on screen.

Having relieved the criminally underused Peter Stormare’s San Diego crime boss, Frank, of $4,000,000 dollars, Driver, hotly pursued by the state police, crashes his car through the border fence, landing himself and the proceeds of his robbery subject to Mexican justice, or supposed lack thereof. The immediate consequences, and perhaps Driver’s motives, are made apparent, as the local police take possession of his ill-gotten gains and escort him off to the snug confines of ‘El Pueblito’ prison, a vile den of ill-begotten miscreants, waifs and strays.

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Having had his hard-earned winnings liberated by the local ‘law’ force, Driver is left to fend for himself amid the many crack-dens, sex-tents and smack-shops of El Pueblito. Fortunately, not long into his stay he strikes up a friendship with a young boy (Kevin Hernandez) and his mother (Dolores Heredia), both relatives of a now dead inmate and both, somewhat appropriately, without name throughout the film. El Pueblito is so named as it permits residents to bring their families in from the outside to reside with them during their stay. In the unfortunate case of Driver’s new acquaintances, they have become trapped by resident crime lord Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho) for reasons unknown.

The story itself is very much an intelligent pastiche of grind-house and B-movie revenge flick with the merest whiff of Messrs Tarantino and Rodriguez thrown in for good measure. In his directorial debut, Adrian Grunberg also succeeds in bringing a tangential flavour of his previous projects, such as Traffic (2000) and Man On Fire (2004), to the film and delivers a highly enjoyable romp through the criminal underworld.

The real star of the show, however, is the prison itself, El Pueblito, which oozes debauchery and desperation, in equal measure, throughout. The story excels in delivering a frenetic array of sucker-punches coupled with action and violence that, in places, test the 15 certificate to its limit. Aside from the myriad scenes of high-octane set pieces and gunplay, the film also boasts a script which should not be overlooked; it is as morbidly comedic as it is sharply written.

As Driver repeatedly outmanoeuvres, outthinks and outplays police, inmates and guards in quick succession, Gibson effortlessly resumes the back-talking bad-ass of Riggs and Porter with self-assured aplomb. For a highly memorable dose of wise-cracking skulduggery, look no further.

Reviewed on: 08 May 2012
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A tough criminal imprisoned in a foreign jail learns how to survive from a nine year old boy.
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Director: Adrian Grunberg

Writer: Mel Gibson, Adrian Grunberg

Starring: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Dolores Heredia, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris

Year: 2012

Runtime: 95 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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