I miss Mel Gibson, when I say Mel Gibson, what I really mean Max Rockatansky and Martin Riggs. As a fan of his work I have always kind of hoped that his well published indiscretions are a symptom of his equally well published problems and not more deep-seated belief. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is his first movie playing his archetypical character for a long time, possibly since Payback (1999). This truly is a star vehicle, funded by Gibson, who produces and co wrote the movie. He also hand picked the director, Adrian Gruenberg (making his directorial debut) who had previously worked as assistant director on Apocalypto.
An American getaway driver (Mel Gibson) crashes into Mexico (literally) and is promptly arrested. In order to relive him of the proceeds of his crime (around $2million) the Mexican police dump him in an unusual jail. When he befriends a young boy with a unique value he is forced to think of more than just himself and his cash.
There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Gibson impersonates Clint Eastwood but long before that the film starts to resemble A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Yojimbo (1961), I don’t think we ever learn what Gibson’s characters name is (from here on I will refer to him as Driver as he is credited on IMDB). The prison contains whole families and is run like a small town by a mob boss. There is even a wild west style shootout. Driver quickly learns who is in charge and what he needs to survive, all the time playing the angles to get out and get his money back. Although largely a likeable character Driver is at the end of the day a career criminal. Stealing from drug smuggling gangsters and helping others, he is given all the breaks when it comes to audience sympathy, not surprisingly when you consider Gibson is credited as both a writer and a producer.
Full of both the action and the dry whit you would expect from Martin Riggs, Gene Ryack and Porter, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is the story of man looking out for himself who finds a certain amount of redemption by thinking of others. Gibson’s own redemption can only be found in his personal life but attempting to get his career back on track and not disappearing to reclusive obscurity hints at a possible intention to do this. In the UK we get to see the movie on the big screen but in America it appears to have débuted on Video On Demand (under its original title Get the Gringo). This is a shame, while not a classic, it is good enough to deserve a theatrical release.