David Oyelowo certainly isn’t known for his comedic chops, but he just might be after turning in a hilarious performance in Gringo, Nash Edgerton’s very black comedy. Unfortunately the movie isn’t nearly up to Oyelowo’s level, and it will probably come and go before anyone gets a chance to appreciate him. And if it doesn’t, it probably should. Full of bloody violence played solely for laughs and a script that can’t seem to get out of its own way, Gringo largely misfires, squandering its ample potential. It ends up being nothing more than a mildly entertaining attempt at a quirky Coen Brothers-esque satire.

Oyelowo stars as Nigerian-born Harold Soyinka, a low-level employee at a Chicago pharmaceuticals firm run by consummate “dude” Richard Rusk (Joel Edgerton). His right-hand woman is Elaine (Charlize Theron), who has perfected the fine art of being an offensive and manipulative ass. Behind closed doors, Richard and Elaine are engaging in extracurricular activities while also secretly plotting to screw the company through a profitable merger. To close the deal, though, they have to convince their Mexico plant manager to stop selling their product (a marijuana pill) to a local kingpin.

Since Harold is buddy-buddy with the Mexican team, Richard and Elaine bring him to smooth things over, but it doesn’t take long for everything to get royally botched. After Harold overhears his bosses discussing the merger plans and then laughing about how they’ll be firing him shortly, he discovers his wife is having an affair. With his life in the toilet Harold decides to fake his own kidnapping, asking five million dollars in ransom from his company. And then things get botched even more.

The kingpin is chopping off people’s toes while professing his love for The Beatles, a group of his thugs are looking for Harold so they can really kidnap him, and Richard and Elaine’s potential merger partners are getting cold feet. While all that’s happening, young Sunny (Amanda Seyfried) and her drug-mule boyfriend (Harry Treadaway) are on an unrelated adventure of their own, but they keep crossing paths with Harold until their plotlines eventually merge. And that’s before Richard’s ex-mercenary brother (Sharlto Copley) joins the shenanigans.

Screenwriters Anthony Tambakis (Warrior) and Matthew Stone (Intolerable Cruelty) might have been onto something at the start, but Gringo gets too preposterous too quickly, and it doesn’t take long for any hope of genuine laughs to dissolve into a decent amount of eyerolls and shrugs. There are still plenty of chuckles, to be sure, and Oyelowo and Copley do their level best to keep things afloat, but after the tenth or eleventh double-cross, it’s hard to keep track, much less keep caring.


3/5 stars