Movie Reviews

‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’: Mel's Back

By Wang DexianMovies - 21 June 2012 8:30 AM | Updated 1:36 PM

‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’: Mel's Back

Mel's back on form in 'How I Spent My Summer Vacation'

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Stars: Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez, Daniel Giménez Cacho

The Buzz: Despite all the negative press Mel Gibson had in recent years, he’s back and on form. His previous movie, ‘The Beaver’, a drama directed by Jodie Foster flopped hard financially but was given a rather warm reception critically. This time, with a script he helped write and produce, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ sees Mel Gibson returning to his action hero persona.

The Story: Mel's nameless character, let's call him “Driver” (because that's what the press release says), is caught trying to cross the American-Mexican border in a car full of stolen cash. He gets convicted and thrown into El Pubelito – a ridiculous prison that looks like the one from the third season of ‘Prison Break’. While incarcerated, he meets a special 10 year old boy – he's special because he's of a rare blood type and it just so happens that the gang lord that runs the prison wants his liver to replace his failing one. And all this is happening whilst corrupt cops and officials try to get the money and the guys that Driver stole from is trying to track him down. Phew. thinks: If you read that story synopsis and thought to yourself: “Wow, that's a whole lot of stuff happening;”  you're completely right. But somehow despite the mess, it seemingly looks like it totally works.

Set against the freewheeling no holds barred backdrop of an anything-goes Mexican prison, the film puts its foot down on the gas pedal and never stops chugging along. Amidst all this craziness, Gibson makes an awesome return as a sarcastic and resourceful tough guy. His dry sense of humour permeates through every bit of the narration that pops up in the film quite often. Craziness, you say? How crazy could it possibly? Well, the kid that Gibson befriends in the movie smokes on screen; it's that crazy.

Mel teaching the kid how to flick a cig the right way

Despite Gibson's character being shrouded in complete mystery (much like Ryan Gosling’s “Driver”), the film is really very character driven. As we go through the film together with his character, we get fed nuggets of information that hint at his flawed past and then everything seems to tie together and make sense when you get to the end.

All those different plot lines we mentioned earlier? They all get wrapped up as well, with lots of twists and turns along the way. For what seemed to be just another action flick in the trailers, the quality of the writing is truly a great surprise and one of the best parts of the film.

With it's crazy take-no-prisoners vibe, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ is a total blast, with huge sprinklings of humour, great action set pieces and a very good arc involving the Driver's anti-heroic redemption.

Gibson clearly has a blast in channelling his badassery and has great chemistry with his much young screen partner, making for a wacky mismatched tag team.

A bold piece of entertainment, ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ is hard to hate even if you have the least respect for Mel Gibson and his weird tirades. Just like the sun soaked images, music and the colourful culture of Mexico, this one's a heck of a fun ride.

‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ opens in theatres 21 June 2012