How I Spent My Summer Vacation, or the more alliterative Get the Gringo, as it is known in America, is the new film written by and starring Mel Gibson who is still desperately trying to save his image. Here he has avoided the family friendly talking animals that plagued his previous attempt at redemption, and is trying to make us remember how much we liked him when he used to shoot people without batting an eyelid.
Here Gibson does his best to summon up some of the magic of Riggs from the Lethal Weapon series. Thus he is slightly off the hook and exceedingly dangerous (not a far stretch from himself). He plays criminal Dick Johnson who lands up in a Mexican jail after a failed robber. Now he needs to break out and get back the stolen money, all the while attempting to help a mother and child who are also stuck in the prison.
The premise is fine and Gibson is the best he has been in a long time, but it is not enough to make you forget his recent problems. Throughout the film all I could hear were those bizarre taped ramblings that surfaced on the Internet recently: “Hooray! Who wants to fucking eat!”
While the film is not quite good enough to make you forgive him his rather aggressive and racist tendencies, the first half of the film is actually quite gripping. It looks great, and has great sound design (the sound of the guns are some of the best I have heard in a long time). The initial entry to the prison where we are introduced to the city like facility is fascinating but here and throughout the movie it is crippled by an absolutely redundant (as it almost always is) voice over. Gibson talks us through what is happening when it is startlingly obvious. This becomes infuriating and ruins the tension the film could have possessed. The second half goes way too far and the action becomes ridiculous. Any interest I had in the characters and situation dissolved as the body count soared and the plot tied itself in knots.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a perfectly adequate movie but Mel needed a knockout in order for us to forgive and forget. This is better than The Beaver but it is not enough to erase the memorey of the many horrendous things he has said in recent years. Gibson has still got it, but his personal life continues to shadow his work and will probably continue to do so for some time, unless he can pull off a masterpiece.