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How I Spent My Summer Vacation

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Released 11 May 2012
Director Adrian Grunberg
Starring

Mel Gibson, Peter Stormare, Dean Norris
Writer(s)

Mel Gibson, Adrian Grunberg, Stacy Perskie
Producer(s)

Bruce Davey, Mel Gibson, Stacy Perskie
Origin United States
Running Time 95 minutes
Genre Action, drama
Rating 16
70

Happy holiday.

There was once a time when Mel Gibson’s off screen antics could be separated from the films he made, but it seems those times have long passed. Following a recent burst of controversy surrounding yet another alleged anti-Semitic outburst, Mel’s latest attempt to make it back into box office success failed to even secure a theatrical release in the US – instead being relegated to a Video on Demand distribution model. Which is a pity, because How I Spent My Summer Vacation is exactly the sort of popcorn munching thrill ride that works best on the big screen.

The film kicks off in medias res, with Mel’s unnamed anti-hero driving for the Mexican border with a suitcase full of stolen cash and a dying partner in the back seat. Things get a lot worse before they get better, and soon Mel is locked in a Mexican prison, penniless, alone, and fighting to survive.

With Gibson on co-writing duties, it is clear that the lead could never be played by anybody else. How I Spent My Summer Vacation harks back to the roles that made Gibson the big name that he is, and since we learn little about his past, the protagonist almost could be Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon or Porter from Payback. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is in many ways a pseudo-sequel to Mel’s whole action career, which captures the tone of Payback in particular. The wild eyed, chain smoking, wise-cracking reluctant anti-hero is one we’ve seen before. It is hardly a spoiler to say that he finally gets dragged into doing the right thing and saving the day.

At heart How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a fun loving action thriller, played with tongue firmly in cheek. With plenty of knowing nods to Robert Rodriguez, John Woo, and above all Sam Peckinpah, the stylised, slo-mo action sequences are beautifully handled. Furthermore the film never succumbs to a dark or serious tone which would ruin the enjoyment. It isn’t going to raise any serious questions about the drug wars in Mexico, or the social problems created by Mexico’s overcrowded prison system, but it never tries to. Above all else How I Spent My Summer Vacation never commits the sin (unlike Mel himself, I suspect) of taking itself too seriously. It sets out to entertain, and succeeds.

- Bernard O’Rourke