** MAY INCLUDE SPOILERS**
Gringo is a film about Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), a Nigerian immigrant living in America, who works for a growing business, Cannabax Technologies Inc—a job that was secured for him by his egotistical best friend and boss: Richard Rusk played by Joel Edgerton. When not acting as a liaison between the company and the company’s Marijuana farms in Mexico, Harold is dealing with his American wife, Bonnie Soyinka (Thandie Newton) who has single-handedly driven Harold to bankruptcy with her extravagant and entirely useless expenses.
Harold is continually depicted as mild-mannered and an almost extreme version of a goody two shoes. In short, he’s seen as an idiot, which allows everyone and they mama to railroad him.
Unbeknownst to Harold, Cannabax Technologies Inc has benefited from illegal relationships and funding from the local drug cartel. Now that the company has founded a cannabis pill, an invention expected to bring in a large amount of capital, Richard and Elaine Markinson (Charlize Theron) have decided to cut off all ties with the drug cartel, and decide to follow Richard on this particular trip to Mexico to do so. I don’t know why they thought they could just *snip snip* ties with a drug cartel, but expectedly, it doesn’t go well. This whole time, Harold has always been the face of the company, in Mexico, and is considered the boss, despite him not having any actual power or any idea of what is going on. So when the drug cartel begin to look for who is in charge, and who to punish for attempting to cut them off from assured future profits, guess who they find?
On the flip side, Harold finds out Bonnie, his wife, is having an affair with Richard, his friend. He also finds out that the company is going through a merger and despite his dedication and hard work, he will be fired and left with nothing but the debt Bonnie has put him in. Because of these revelations, Harold decides to stay in Mexico, while Elaine and Richard return to the U.S, and tap into his atrophied 419 skills, by faking his kidnap and benefitting from the company’s insurance plan. However, much like everything in Harold’s life, this plan is also a failure. One, because Richard didn’t inform Harold that he in fact has no safety insurance, and two, because Harold has a 2 million dollar life insurance policy via the company, so Richard sends his missionary brother Mitch (Sharlto Copley) to kill Harold so they can both benefit from the insurance policy. Typical.
A marginal love story develops between Sunny (Amanda Seyfried), a young lady who is just as foolish as Harold and doesn’t realize her boyfriend is a drug trafficker, and Harold.
A lot of things happen, including Harold being actually kidnapped and attacked by drug cartel members, and him befriending his potential assassin. You’re just going to have to watch the film to get the full tea.
It was great that they used an actual Nigerian, David Oyelowo, to play the role of Harold, because this could’ve easily looked like a caricature had it been played by an American – due to its comedic tone. Speaking of using a Nigerian, I felt this story and Harold’s depiction would resonate deeply with a lot of immigrants. There was a particular scene in which Harold essentially said he got his work/life ethic from his father who advised him that if anyone were to work hard, and give genuine effort, success is assured in America. Now, we know that xenophobia, racism, and other societal injustices do not allow for everyone, despite hard work, to succeed in America, but that naivete truly follows immigrants to America. Many immigrants see America as a promise land, but just like Harold found out, you can do everything right and still get screwed. Harold was played a fool by everyone around him, and it was probably due to his foreignness. I’m sure many of us have witnessed either our’s, or our parent’s, foreignness be conflated with stupidity.
Gringo indeed is a run-off-the-mill comedy, with some heart, and a sprinkle of Naija excellence. Go watch it in theaters or 419 it online.