Verdict: 3.5 / 5
Although Hollywood has turned its back on Mel Gibson after many questionable acts over recent years, Mad Mel stands firm – writing, producing and starring in his latest venture. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a much needed reminder that Gibson is still one of the finest film-makers in the business. Despite “Get the Gringo” being a direct to video release in the U.S. it has received favourable reviews from critics, many proclaiming the film as Mel’s big comeback. Set aside your feelings toward the actor’s off-screen antics and you’ll find his performance and the film exceptionally entertaining – enough to warrant a theatrical release.
Gibson attempted to recapture his star fame with Edge of Darkness, but after disappointing box office results the actor returned to his corner. He re-evaluated his stance with Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, but this also fell to the way side with mixed reviews. After some calculation, despite the odds being against him, Gibson is back in the ring, ready to throw punches once again. Thankfully, this effort has more energy behind it – enough to make audiences sit up and pay attention. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a dynamite package of humour, wit, charm and edge. In short, Mel Gibson is back and we’re better for it.
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Those familiar with Prison Break will find a number of similarities in How I Spent My Summer Vacation. Mel Gibson plays a wise-cracking and easy going veteran crook who winds up crashing the Mexican border after a hot pursuit by the police. The crooked Mexican police throw him in a Mexican prison town known as El Pueblito, but not before confiscating a bag of money he stole. While the cops are out spending his money, Gringo (white man in Spanish) is stuck in the anything goes prison run by a mob boss, Javi, and his brother, Caracas. But Gringo is not content to just sit around and do time. Instead, he puts his street smarts to work – pulling off assaults and committing petty theft. Things become more complicated when he bonds with a young boy who has spent his entire life behind the four walls. Could this boy hold the key to his way out?
It’s good to assume that if you were a fan of Gibson’s earlier work in the violent semi-comic crime drama Payback that you’ll be a fan of How I Spent My Summer Vacation. They are remarkably similar. Some have even argued that it’s a sequel of sorts.
The sadder and wiser Gibson embodies the role of Gringo, the tough as nails persona, so well that it’s hard to imagine another actor filling his shoes here. He shows flashes of his former self and proves that he still has the energetic charisma and growly vocal to demand attention. Special mention should also be made of his little co-star, Kevin Hernandez, who manages to hold his own throughout.
Well, I think we all know how Mel Gibson really spent his summer vacation, anti-sematic remarks, woman battering and so forth, but setting that aside (vacation over) this film is fresh, funny, and most of all entertaining. I dare you not to enjoy it.