Director: Adrian Grunberg
Cast: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris
Running time: 95 minutes
We were somewhere around The Mexican Border on the edge of the desert when the nonsense began to take hold…
From this point onwards, Mel Gibson literally and figuratively crashes his audience through 95 minutes of what would seem like a sentimental vanity project gone wrong. The film opens with Gibson, an American criminal simply known as Driver, on the run from the authorities along the Mexican border. With the law giving chase on both sides of the fence, he chooses the lesser of two evils and launches himself across the border and into trouble. Upon finding in excess of $2 million in his getaway car, the Federales take him to a walled in, slum-like Mexican prison, replete with vast corruption and a head honcho breeding a liver in a small child.
Slip your brain into neutral and prepare yourself to ignore Gibson’s ‘quirky’ brand of thinly-veiled racism wrapped up in in Mexican standoffs and hyperbolised action sequences. The film appears to want you to believe that all Mexicans do is eat tacos and listen to Mariachi music. Adrian Grunberg (a student of Gibson himself) directs Gibson’s screenplay that pits two competing national perspectives on corruption against each other. While Mexico’s vision is open and ‘honest’ about their wheeling and dealing, Gibson’s criminal is the American poster boy of redemptive corruption as he brings white justice to the seedy underbelly of Mexico’s prison system. Moreover, it would seem that Gibson is attempting an awkward stab at nostalgic voyeurism: recreating a criminalised version of Lethal Weapon’s Riggs; exchanging Danny Glover for a chain smoking Mexican child. However, this brand of jingoistic outlaw hubris is lost as Driver retains almost no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The film’s dialogue is composed almost solely of witless but catchy quips delivered at a pace so fast that it empties them of any meaning whatsoever. The clumsy manipulation of the characters provides no insight to their background or story, which leaves the audience with little empathy as they’re pushed towards the films awkward attempt at a sincere conclusion. On the surface, How I Spent My Summer Vacation plays out like an average, enjoyable action film – a renaissance for the ‘80s action flick. However, there exists no contextual or characteristic mortar to fill in the gaping blanks left by the film’s need to satiate every dark desire we have to shoot at things until they explode.
All things considered, the return of the simplistic, minimalist action anti hero is somewhat welcomed in what at times can be a comedic and painfully easy to watch film. Quite simply, this is Lethal Weapon’s Martin Riggs on the wrong side of the border, on the wrong side of the law, and perhaps, on the wrong side of the camera.