How I Spent My Summer Vacation (2012)
Director: Adrian Grunberg
Cast: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris
Plot: A career criminal nabbed by Mexican authorities is placed in a tough prison where he learns to survive with the help of a 9-year-old boy.
Genre: Action / Crime / Drama
Rating: M18 for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some drug use and sexual material.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“And stop bleeding on my money!”
After being waist deep in controversy for his alcoholism and anti-Semitic rants for the last half-decade, bad boy Mel Gibson seems to have reached the point of no return, at least career wise. No one wants to work with him anymore. No one seems to want to watch him on the big screen anymore. His last film, the Jodie Foster-directed The Beaver (2011) was left struggling to find an audience because Gibson went bonkers again prior to the film's release.
Is there a way back for one of Hollywood's lost sons? Is there light at the end of the tunnel for an actor whose claim to fame came from movies such as Mad Max (1979) and Lethal Weapon (1987), both of which spawned sequels of varying quality.
The answer is a less than resounding yes, but a yes nonetheless. It only makes sense that the only people who might have no qualms working with Gibson are the ones who have produced or worked on his own directed films (Braveheart, 1995; The Passion of the Christ, 2004; Apocalypto, 2006) before.
Recruit a fresh-faced director with extensive experience as an assistant director to established practitioners like Oliver Stone, Peter Weir and Sam Mendes, and there might just be a film to silence Gibson's critics for about five seconds. How I Spent My Summer Vacation (titled as the more exciting Get the Gringo in North America) is that film, and one I suspect will give Gibson's career a much needed morale boost.
An action-thriller set in a Mexican prison slum, How I Spent My Summer Vacation stars Gibson as Driver, who is tailed by Mexican and American authorities in a thrilling car chase prologue that confidently sets the free-wheeling tone of the entire film. He later finds himself in the abovementioned prison slum with a game plan to try to escape, not before he gets emotionally involved in the life-and-death stakes of a young boy with a rare blood type who is kept alive so that his liver could be used by a crime boss to replace his ailing one.
Directed by Adrian Grunberg, the film could have been a brainless exercise that leaves no impression after its end credits, but kudos to everyone involved as this is one of the more viscerally entertaining films of the year. Gibson retains his magnetic screen presence, and he remains to be an intense actor when he is on song. His performance here is just right for the film - nothing showy but he grinds out a gritty one.
Grunberg's film has its fair share of strong violence, some of which are executed to aplomb, in particular a slow-motion action gunfight sequence that strangely does not look out of place in this quick-cut, in-your-face thriller. There is a gory sequence on an operating table that makes the one in Prometheus (2012) feels family-friendly.
For all of its worth, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is an enjoyable film, briskly-paced, and sees Gibson back in the limelight, now for the right reasons.
Verdict: A gritty 'prison' film starring Mel Gibson that surprisingly entertains.
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