“Back to his best” is a fairly loaded term, applied liberally across reviews
“Back to his best” is a fairly loaded term, applied liberally
across reviews of popular art mostly with the express intention of getting a
nod on the promo poster.
It can mean that the artist in
question has either churned out another piece of by-the-numbers work (see Pacino,
A.) or that he or she exists on a level beyond criticism (see Dylan, B.).
But it always places the artist
firmly in the veteran stage, and pretty much guarantees that his or her work
has already been accomplished.
Having said all that, in How I Spent My Summer Vacation Mel
Gibson is indeed Back To His Best. Because Gibson’s best is the sort of
bug-eyed, ultra-violent sociopath that he gives here, not the ill-conceived
leading men of The Beaver or What Women Want. HISMSV, as it must
surely be known, is a taught hour-and-a-half of mindless, entertaining carnage
in which Gibson channels his inner Riggs.
From the opening cross-desert car
chase to the climactic Mexican army raid on a lawless prison, Gibson’s a
nameless, hard-as-nails, psychotic anti-hero, adept with fists and guns and
with a creased charm redolent of his best work.
After crashing across the border,
Gibson is relieved of both his newly-stolen cash and his liberty by Mexico’s
finest and most corrupt cops, and thrown into one of the circles of hell – a
vast, out of control jail where crooked capitalism keeps everyone under control
and everything can be bought but freedom.
Standing out somewhat as the only
gringo in the place, he quickly figures out who’s really running the show
(clue: it ain’t the guards) and how to get to them, all with the aim of getting
out and getting his money back.
Aided by Kevin Hernandez’s world-weary
ten-year old boy – this is a strange prison indeed – and abetted by a smarmy,
cigar-chewing U.S. diplomat (Peter Gerety), the grand plan falls into
place with no little style, to the backdrop of mariachi music and cracked
The pace is relentless – filmed
in an actual, decommissioned prison with aplomb by Gibson’s confidant Adrian
Grunberg, with whom he worked on the similarly frenetic Apocalpyto.
Gibson clearly trusts Grunberg to
do his thing, which in turn allows him to do his, and he’s back to his best.
Stick that on the poster.