There was a time when Mad Mel was known for his “crazy-madcap” characters; Max Rockatansky, Martin Riggs, Gene Ryack etc. Then it was for being a serious director, liberating Scotland from the evil English in Braveheart and nailing Jim Caviezel to a couple of bits of wood (for our sins) in The Passion of The Christ, a film so dour and worthy it made Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ look like Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Then came the highly publicized “incidents”; the abusive (threatening) answer machine message to an ex-girlfriend and the drunk driving “sugar-tits, I blame the Jews” rant. Mel just wasn’t funny or popular anymore, his last film was The Beaver, a suitably unfunny and unpopular film.
But now we get How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a return to the smoke / joke / shoot / joke / punch / joke genre. Mel’s protagonist is apprehended by (horribly stereotyped) corrupt Mexican cops, who decide to take his cash and toss him in prison (to keep him out of their hair) rather than simply killing him (which would have been far more effective and logical). Once in prison Mel has fight and quip (just) to survive, which he does, just as if it’s 1990 all over again. I don’t want to sound ageist, but Mel looks every day of his 56 years (and then some) and his ass-kicking and firing a gun gangsta-stylee (sideways) evokes images of an aged uncle, at a wedding reception, on the dance floor, failing to prove he’s “still got it”.
After a couple of fights and thefts Mel forms a (supposedly) sweet friendship with a 10 year old child and starts a (supposedly) romantic flirtation with the boy’s incarcerated mother. This family man subplot just doesn’t pan or scan with the super-badass Mel who breaks heads, hits people when they aren’t looking, burns down taco stands and takes cash from blind toilet attendants.
How I Spent My Summer Vacation (almost) takes a turn for the interesting when it is revealed that the boy is a walking organ donor to the prison’s crime kingpin. Will Mel escape, will be get his money back, will the boy keep his liver, will they all live happily ever after…? Not a single monkey’s was given by me across the each and every one of the 95 minutes of How I Spent My Summer Vacation.
How bad is it? It makes Payback look like Point Blank, it makes Lethal weapon 4 look like Lethal Weapon 1, and it makes Maverick look like the Wild Bunch. I’ve heard football chants with more wit, I’ve seen politicians with more charm, I’ve had visits to the dentists with more laughs, I’ve had trips to the barbers with more tension and I’ve seen better developed narratives, in jokes, on lolly sticks!
The biggest problem is that the film is that it’s too nasty to be a Lethal Weapon, too slight to be a Man Without A Face, too weak to be an Edge Of Darkness and Mel REALLY ain’t popular enough carry it. The “jokes” don’t sit with the torture scenes and the bullets in the head.
Rather than watch this film, learn how to say, “I do not wish to see the latest Mel Gibson film” in as many different languages as possible (ich möchte nicht den spätesten Mel Gibson Film, zu irgendeinem Preis sehen, for example).