How I Spent My Summer Vacation Review

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An American getaway driver (Gibson) is arrested on the Mexican side of the border fresh off a heist. The cops take his money and dump him in prison. Survival is his first priority, but after befriending a nine year-old boy (Hernandez), it becomes about much more than his own survival.


Remember Mel Gibson? You know, the one before the court appearances and voicemail messages and DUI arrest rants? The twinkly blues, the mischievous grins, the ability to leaven brutal action with a light touch, to make psychos fuzzy and lovable? Remember him? If you don’t, How I Spent My Summer Vacation might just help. For here we get the strongest echo in years of what gave the Mel-of-old such widespread appeal. His face has become as weathered as his past has become chequered, but his spry turn as ‘Driver’ displays plenty of that forgotten charisma.

Mel is a modern-day Man With No Name playing all ends against the middle in a Mexican prison so loose with the rules it’s essentially a high-walled Wild West town run by the banditos. Like Clint Eastwood’s cheroot-chewing anti-hero, Driver is a morally shady gringo (and yes, he smokes) with a soft spot for a mother and son in trouble. And he’s always a step ahead of everyone else; anything they can do, he can, and will, do better. There’s a resulting diffusion of jeopardy, and just a whiff of bigotry (the American is stronger and smarter than all these inept/corrupt hispanics), but the darkly humorous tone holds for the most part, even alongside some heavy-handed violence. Although, with a plotline involving forced organ transplants, this was hardly going to be a knockabout comedy.

The Dollars trilogy inspiration isn’t just implied; as well as centering their movie on a nameless mercenary, Gibson and writer/director Adrian Grunberg (here making his debut after first-assistant directing for Gibson on Apocalypto and on the Gibson-starring Edge Of Darkness) even throw in a skit where Driver pretends to be Eastwood over the phone to a clueless tycoon. Mel’s impression is... passable.

In the States, where it goes by the inferior alias Get The Gringo, the film
has rather ignominiously headed direct to VOD. But it’s not undeserving of a theatrical run. After the oppressively dour Edge Of Darkness and frankly nutso The Beaver, it’s quite fun to have a sparky, Riggs-ish Mel Gibson back in our cinemas.

A Mex-set spaghetti Western featuring toilet humour, organ transplants and the closest Mel Gibson’s come to playing Martin Riggs since the last Lethal Weapon.