After his ill-advised adventures in sexism and race relations, it’s good to see Mel Gibson back on screen without, relatively, much baggage. After The Beaver’s mental-breakdown shenanigans, and his numerous religio-directorial outings, Summer Vacation is an old-school B movie which is, mostly, pretty darn good fun.
Gibbo is Dick Johnson (geddit?), a career criminal who has, as the opening car chase through the Mexican desert shows, fallen on tough times. He winds up in a Tijuana jail – less a prison and more “like the shittest mall” with a ‘smack shack’, conjugal tents (literally) and generally unpleasant types – where he puts his conman skills to the test to secure his own freedom and survival.
It’s Mel doing his wisecracking wrong ‘un routine (think the similarly styled Payback) and he’s back to his best, outfoxing, outmanoeuvring and outmuscling his inmate compadres as he gets the run of the jail, always one step ahead, with the script’s twists and turns moving things along nicely right to the end.
There are a couple of plausibility-stretching turns – his blossoming relationship with a 10-year-old inmate is endearing, but slows the ball-busting breakneck pace – and a couple of supporting actors, Peter Stormare especially, are underused. It’s far from a classic, but goes some way to restoring Mel’s big-screen clout, and reminds us just why we loved him in the first place.
Good for: Gibson fans who have been dismayed at how his past five years have panned out. 3 out of 5 stars.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris | 15 | 96mins