David Oyelowo has proven his dramatic chops in "Selma," "A United Kingdom," and "Queen of Katwe." Now he shows some of his lighter side in the dark comedy thriller, "Gringo."
Oyelowo plays Harold, a middle-manager for a pharmaceutical company run by his friend Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Elaine (Charlize Theron). Harold is married to Bonnie (Thandie Newton), a not-very-successful interior designer who has spent them into near-bankruptcy. Harold gets hints that something suspicious is going down at the company, and that he might be out of a job soon, but his old buddy Richard assures him everything's fine. Of course, it isn't.
From there, the plot points just keep on coming, involving a Mexican weed factory, a drug lord with a Beatles fetish (Carlos Corrona), a ransom demand, a mercenary (Sharlto Copley), some adultery, the head of another pharmaceutical company (Alan Ruck), and a young American couple (Amanda Seyfried and Harry Treadaway) who, well, I won't tell you any more -- except to keep an eye out for Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris, in the scene in a guitar store.
Suffice to say that "Gringo" has the kind of layer-upon-layer story that made 80s movies like "Romancing The Stone" click -- just when you think one crisis is solved, there's another character you shouldn't have trusted, another flipped car, another twist, another double-cross. Some of them I saw from a mile away, but for most of them, I was happy to go along for the ride.
Charlize Theron is also one of the producers of "Gringo," and it's nice to see her getting more power in Hollywood (she's been on the executive side for several of her movies, including last year's "Atomic Blonde"). In "Gringo," her Elaine is a ruthless woman who takes no crap from anyone and is even more Machiavellian than her business partner/lover, Richard, played with full gusto by Edgerton (who is also in theaters now with the Jennifer Lawrence flop, "Red Sparrow").
"Gringo" was directed by Edgerton's brother Nash, a former stuntman who maintains a steady action pace without too many lulls, and gets in quite a few laughs, too. Oyelowo plays the humor straight, while remaining a magnetic presence on-screen, and gets full support from the rest of the cast.
One problem the movie has is that the drug lord is referred to a few times as The Black Panther, a reference that drew giggles in the theater. If Ridley Scott could erase Kevin Spacey and seamlessly replace him with Christopher Plummer in "All The Money In The World," Edgerton could have changed a few graphics and subtitles so that his villain had a different name. It's not like he and the producers didn't know their movie would be released around the same time as the superhero box office behemoth.
I enjoyed "Gringo" enough to recommend it with a 7 out of 10.