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How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Genre Crime

How I Spent My Summer Vacation, originally Get the Gringo, stars Mel Gibson in what has been described as an unofficial sequel to Payback. Love or hate the man, he's still got loads of moxie and star power. He may be a washed up celebrity in real-life, but Gibson is still a live-wire on screen and shows he's still got it in what should have been his acting comeback.

A nameless Gibson manages to find himself in a corrupt yet liberal prison village, after getting nabbed by Mexican border patrol authorities with a few duffel bags of stolen cash. He begins to work the system with help from a 10-year-old boy, who holds the key to his freedom.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a gritty crime drama thriller that could be described as a City of God and Life is Beautiful cross-over as directed by Robert Rodriguez. The City of God influence is apparent as the Mexican "village" has been modeled to look like a Brazilian favela, where criminals are left to fester by corrupt authorities. The open trade system allows anything and anyone in, but escapees are executed by elite squad members, who man the walls.

The charming American conman befriends a kid on the inside of the prison camp and becomes something of a father figure to him in much the same way that Roberto Benigni did in Life is Beautiful. This central relationship drives the dark story and redeems an already likable yet anonymous lead character in Mel Gibson.

The Robert Rodriguez factor is amplified by the Mexican setting, the shoot outs, the bag of money politics, the street smarts, the oddball mix of hardened characters with a little comic relief. While most of the film is dominated by heavy crime drama, it's interspersed by Gibson's charm and a cheeky sense of humour in the style of Payback.

While How I Spent My Summer Vacation aspires to these strong influences, it doesn't quite add up. The performances are strong with an in-form Gibson and a remarkable turn from a young Kevin Hernandez. Peter Gerety also deserves a special mention as the slimy embassy representative, but what the film is missing is a prime villain. This role is indistinct and a little too vulnerable, shared among a number of corrupt "bosses".

The swirling subplots keep the film entertaining as the central father-son dynamic plays out with a few twists to spice things up. How I Spent My Summer Vacation takes a slight detour before the grand finale, only to jack the whole production up a notch with an all-or-nothing conclusion. The movie rumbles along with a violent, funny and intense veneer and it's great to see Gibson in the middle of it all.

The bottom line: Entertaining

7.50/10 ( 2 Votes )
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