When we join the story, our protagonist (Mel Gibson) is being chased by cops along the fence bordering the Mexican-American divide seeing as how he has a large bag of stolen cash in the back seat. Also in the back seat is a clown who is bleeding to death, his accomplice who was shot in their escape; he's not much longer for this world, so the driver is intent on saving his own skin, which he does by noticing a ramp of dirt built up at one side of the fence. Although one of the cops has blown out a tire on the vehicle, he manages to crash through at high speed - where the Mexican patrolmen are waiting.
But when they catch sight of the millions of U.S. dollars they decide not to hand both our protagonist (who is never named) and that cash over to their colleagues north of the border, and set about both keeping it for themselves and sending Gibson's criminal to prison for as long as they can get away with - that way he won't be trying to get back what he has stolen. If this is sounding somewhat Payback-esque, then perhaps it was no coincidence that it was Gibson not only starring, but having a hand in the script to boot, although such was the precipitous drop his public profile had taken in light of revelations about his private life he was possibly not looking to win anyone over.
Not anyone who wasn't a diehard fan already, and wasn't going to let the matter of their screen hero's objectionable prejudices put them off him and seeing his latest effort. Actually, in the States this was barely released as Get the Gringo, slipping under many radars and not needing any kind of protest, but in other territories it won a proper cinema release, which could be because the distributors thought moviegoers in, say, the United Kingdom where it was retitled How I Spent My Summer Vacation were a bunch of mad racists anyway so weren't too bothered about what Mel had to say in his less guarded moments. Or possibly they wanted some kind, any kind of return on a film that was not going to break any records.
So it was that pretty much only those diehards sought this out, but if they did they would find something surprisingly good for what could have been the equivalent of a Steven Seagal straight to DVD effort. Gibson wasn't coasting here: he gave a better performance than he had in some time, reminding viewers why they liked him in the first place, in the movies at any rate. In typical form, his character goes through hell once he's been captured, which involves him landing in a Mexican prison which is a community in itself, ringed by armed guards but allowing the inmates to get on with it, a genuine establishment named El Pueblito which is now closed, but obviously sparked ideas in the writers of this. Gibson's oddly vulnerable schemer begins to bend circumstances to his will.
Well, he has a wounded air, often a humorous one, right up until he has to mete out the, er, payback, but in the meantime while he draws up his next move he befriends a young boy there (Kevin Hernandez), who seems to be present to accompany his mother (Dolores Heredia) but everyone keeps their distance from him which intrigues his new friend, and once he finds out the reason determines to save him for a "being nice to children" merit. With the air of being based on a solid paperback thriller, there were some good laughs here, often in Gibson's sardonic voiceover, though most of the pleasure derived from watching how the lead's Machiavellian string pulling played out. You are aware that he's going to succeed after a fashion, it's that sort of movie, but seeing who's left standing and how it all works is what keeps you watching. Obviously there were those who would be turned right off by the star, but he had gone back to what he was good at so if he was licking his wounds, he was doing it in style. Music by Antonio Pinto.