As How I Spent My Summer Vacation begins, we see two men dressed as clowns escaping the scene of a robbery, one of which is an anonymously named character played by Mel Gibson. Heading for, and crashing through the border into Mexico, one dies, while Gibson’s character is buried in a Mexican prison and corrupt legal system so the bent cops can pocket their big cash steal. This is no normal prison however, it’s filled with bars, businesses, brothels, and ran by a corrupt prison warden, and a top-level inmate. Realizing that he is the lone American in the prison, Gibson’s character starts thinking outside of the box in order to get on top, and learn to survive. As he begins his rise to power inside, outside forces are working to expose where the missing money is, and who took it; a force so strong that no amount of money or corruption can cover up.
Gibson has been on the rough end of Hollywood for well over a decade, if its not his off-screen antics, it’s his on-set antics that have prevented Gibson from being the number one star in Hollywood he was some twenty years ago. His climb back up the ladder starting with Edge Of Darkness has been a long, slow process but with How I Spent My Summer Vacation, you really feel he has returned to top form.
You cannot help but draw a comparison to this movie and Brian De Palma’s Scarface, the prison that Gibson is incarcerated in feels very much like a more established Freedom Town, filled with the same level of low lives, and a similar class system. Towards the end of the movie as the prison falls under siege, again it echoes the final moments of Scarface’s Freedom Town.
What’s really nice about the movie is the sharp mix of fairly brutal violence, and some very dark wit, How I Spent My Summer at times is a really funny movie, the kind of funny that is not unfamiliar to Gibson, in fact you can’t help but see echoes of Martin Riggs (Lethal Weapon) in Gibson’s new incarnation. The comedy his you from very early on in the movie, as his character narrates over an action chase telling the audience something his mother said to him. As the movie progresses the humor generally combines with death, someone’s demise is lightened by some subtle comedy.
The story is nicely rounded, and you cant help but think that Gibson who starred, produced and contributed to the script has been working on this little project for sometime, there has been so much effort into making the perfect story, and to ensure that all aspects are flawless. There is not one point where you think, they could have taken the story that way, the journey goes exactly where you want it to go, and that does not make it predictable in any way, it just makes it right. Something that to be honest you never get to see in a movie, and this is the movies greatest power.