How I Spent my Summer Vacation
Tightly directed action-comedy that even the most ardent Mel Gibson-haters will find difficult to dislike
There are probably quite a few people – not least screenwriter Joe Eszterhaus, judging by his recently published missive – who would probably like to see Mel Gibson languishing in a filthy Mexican jail. But sadly for them, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is no documentary. Rather, it’s an eventful action-comedy, set inside the sordid walls of real-life Tijuana prison, El Pueblito – a notorious hell-hole where inmates are allowed to live with their families.
Gibson plays a nameless crook (dubbed Driver in the credits, we’ll give debut director Adrian Grunberg the benefit of the doubt and assume he didn’t rip off Ryan Gosling’s wheelman in Drive) who begins the film by literally crashing his car through the Tex-Mex border wall. Trying to outrun US cops with a boot-load of cash (stolen from Peter Stormare’s crimelord), he doesn’t get very far.
Thrown into El Pueblito by the Mexican fuzz, Driver must learn how to survive his incarceration – or go the way of most gringos and end up in the mortuary. His ‘eyes’ turn out to be a cocky 10 year-old boy (Kevin Hernandez), whose jailbird father was murdered by Javi (Daniel Giménez Cacho), the joint’s de facto Mr. Big. And so Driver sets about trying to extract himself from jail, and reclaim his ill-gotten gains, before somebody sticks a knife in him.
Co-written by Gibson, Grunberg and Stacy Perskie, the result is an enjoyable enough ride – one that even the most rampant Gibson-hater would find difficult to dislike. With Driver’s wry voiceover keeping it tight, it has the zing of a Lethal Weapon or Bird on a Wire, Gibson’s 1990 action-comedy with Goldie Hawn. Even impersonating Clint Eastwood in one scene, its star revels in his role too. Perhaps because, for once, there’s not a whiff of controversy here.
General release from Fri 11 May.