Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson is 56 or so now, and looks it, as frayed at the edges as he’s been frayed in temper lately. Just the right man, then, to play an ultra-audacious, ever-resourceful small-time career crook who slams his robbery getaway car across the American-Mexican border to get away from the US cops but lands himself in a hell hole of a Mexican jail instead, parted from his couple of a million dollars of bank loot.

Call me pessimistic, or what, but after this great start, you think it’s all going to fall apart, especially when Mel, the only gringo in the strangely free-and-easy yet appalling jail, teams up with an ultra-cocky nine-year-old kid (Kevin Hernandez)  and his strangely sexy ma (Dolores Heredia). But, good lord, it doesn’t. It simply keeps powering relentlessly along for all its crisp, brisk, short 95-minute running time, packing as many grisly deaths, twisty plot incidents, quirky characters, funny, laidback wry laughs and intense action thrills as anyone could possibly hope for in one single movie.

There’s plenty of cringeworthy violence and torture too, which some might want to turn away from, but the film still has a beating heart, a little soul and a twisted compass, without any remote suggestion of ever going gooey and collapsing into sentimentality. It’s tough stuff, alright, and it simply won’t cave in.

Mel is brilliantly good, his wisecracking, world-weary voiceover the quintessence of film noir style. This is the Mel of Mad Max, Lethal Weapon or Payback, and that’s Mel at his best. Then they’ve made sure there’s a good array of baddies for Mel to take on. Outstandingly scary are Daniel Gimenez Cacho as the slimy bathrobe-wearing cartel boss who runs things on the inside and Peter Stormare as an angry mobster  who sends his goons to retrieve Mel’s stolen money.

And, above all, I can’t stress enough just how stonking the movie is too. It’s a classic action movie in the best old Seventies style, quite clearly taking Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway as its role model. And Sam would have been proud of Mel here.

Just when you want to go all world-weary yourself, along comes a film that really surprises you, takes you by the throat and yanks you through hell and high water to shatter all your nerves and senses to leave you thoroughly shaken and stirred – all in the name of fine, cynical, edge-of-seat entertainment. Despite the scarily mounting body count, this is the most truly alive movie for some while.

Only complaint: this is a rotten re-titling of what was originally just fine – Get the Gringo. Don’t mess with perfection, guys!

Verdict: Get the old gringo’s movie now! 4/5

Copyright (c) Derek Winnert 2012