'El Gringo'

As an undeniable exercise in third-hand coolness, with nods to spaghetti Westerns and '70s drive-in actioners, "El Gringo" is diverting enough.

Venezuelan emigre Eduardo Rodriguez’s second contribution to the inaugural quintet of After Dark Action features possesses the style and humor lacking from his “Stash House,” even if those factors and everything else here are baldly torn from the Robert Rodriguez (no relation) playbook, circa “Desperado.” Still, as an undeniable exercise in third-hand coolness, with nods to spaghetti Westerns and ’70s drive-in actioners, “El Gringo” is diverting enough. It should prove a salable commodity in various territories, mostly as a home-format item.

A man with no name (brawny Scott Adkins, who’ll co-star with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in a forthcoming “Universal Soldier” reboot) arrives on foot in drug cartel-controlled Mexican border town Frontera bearing a bag with $2 million in U.S. bills. Naturally, everyone in town is soon eager to separate him from that windfall, which flashbacks reveal fell into his hands after an ambush that left him the only survivor among four undercover DEA officers. While the man tries to stay alive and in possession of the contraband, New Mexico cop West (Christian Slater) drives to the rescue, though his loyalties prove a tad problematic.

Numerous people get kickboxed in the face, a bazillion are shot and some stuff blows up. Willfully over-the-top action and character types are fun if never quite as giddily distinctive as hoped for. To the credit of Rodriguez and scenarist Jonathan Stokes, the pic starts at the crisis point and manages to keep complications piling up with a certain esprit.

Shot in Bulgaria and Louisiana, the production has a slightly more expansive canvas than others in the current After Dark quintet, with its reported $7 million budget repping the high end of the scale. Tech and design contributions are solid.

El Gringo

Production

An After Dark Films release of an After Dark and Silver Pictures production. Produced by Courtney Solomon, Moshe Diamant. Executive producers, Joel Silver, Allan Zeman, Scott Adkins, Gregory Walker, Isaac Florentine. Co-producers, Stephanie Caleb, Lucy Mukerjee. Directed by Eduardo Rodriguez. Screenplay, Jonathan Stokes.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Yaron Levy; editors, Rodriguez, Don Adams, Harold Parker; music, Luis Ascanio; music supervisor, Jeremy Pleasant; production designer, Nate Jones; art directors, Borislav Michailovski, Michelle Jones; set decorator, John Richoux; costume designer, Kim Martinez; stunt coordinator, Borislav Iliev; sound, Emil Evtimov, Michael Russo; re-recording mixer, Jon Vogl; assistant director, Antony Tanev; casting, Manuel Teil. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, May 5, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Scott Adkins, Christian Slater, Yvette Yates, Israel Islas, Erando Gonzalez, Sofia Sisniega, Valentin Ganev, Georgi Karlukovski, Mimosa Bazova, Petar Bachvarov, Mihail Elenov, Zahari Baharov, Vlado Mihaylov. (English, Spanish dialogue)

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