How I Spent My Summer Vacation is fine, but will it save Mel Gibson's career?

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (15)

Verdict: Mel Gibson re-invents himself

Rating: 3 Star Rating

So rock-bottom is Mel Gibson’s standing in Hollywood — I think this may have something to do with alcohol-fuelled remarks of his about politics, race and religion — that he had to fund this movie himself, and no one would grant it a cinematic release in America.

That’s pretty amazing, in view of the garbage that does get thrown at the public.

It’s also a pity, because it’s his best star vehicle since What Women Want, way back at the start of the century. 

Mexican romance: Mel Gibson and Dolores Heredia in How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Mexican romance: Mel Gibson and Dolores Heredia in How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Previously titled Get The Gringo, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is about an amoral career-criminal (Gibson) who’s thrown into a bizarre Mexican prison, where he proceeds to outsmart gang bosses, corrupt cops and assorted low-lifes.

In many ways, he’s as despicable as they are. The saving grace is that he takes pity on an endangered Hispanic ten-year-old (Kevin Hernandez) and through him, finds love with his gutsy single mother (Dolores Heredia).

The film’s outstanding element is its setting, brilliantly re-created by production designer Bernardo Trujillo and based on a real-life experiment in which prisoners were allowed to have drugs, firearms and their own families in prison, run businesses and pretty much rule the joint.

I suppose an alternative title might have been Mad Mex.

Superimposed on this is a serviceable if humdrum plot, which mainly consists of our hero killing people as bloodily as possible.

There being no greedy Zionists or sneering English aristocrats available, Gibson turns his homicidal attentions to seedy Mexicans and overweight Americans.

Unashamedly gruesome and in no way deserving of only a 15 certificate, this is a return to the action of movies like 1998’s Payback. Gibson co-wrote and co-produced with director Adrian Grunberg, and — whatever else may be said about Mel — he’s a pro.

The pace never lets up over 90 minutes, and in years gone by it would have been a hit. Now?

I think if Gibson sincerely wishes to revive his career, he should reconcile himself to a decade or two of social work and some hefty donations to Jewish charities.

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