How I Spent My Summer Vacation - Mel gets his mojo back in a scuzzy Mexican prison

Disgraced star Mel Gibson (opens in new tab) makes a bid for box-office redemption by playing an out-an-out rogue in the scuzzy, darkly comic crime thriller How I Spent My Summer Vacation (opens in new tab).

First seen at the wheel of a hurtling getaway car, dressed in a clown-outfit disguise, Gibson’s nameless crook crashes through the US-Mexico border fence and ends up as the solitary gringo in a spectacularly grungy Mexican jail.

His chances of survival in the teeming, squalid, cutthroat world of ‘El Pueblito’ would appear slim, but Gibson’s anti-hero is nothing if not resourceful. He quickly takes stock of his bizarre surroundings, a jail that is almost a town in itself and which houses both prisoners and their families. He soon learns that anything is available inside, from soft drinks and cigarettes to drugs and guns, if you have the cash. (‘Is this a prison or the world’s shittiest mall?’ he asks himself.)

Mel Gibson (Driver) in How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Next he befriends a scrappy 10-year-old kid and begins to work out the weak links in the hierarchal chain of power that leads up to the jail’s sleazy kingpin. His goals are to get out, retrieve his loot and strike back at his old enemies before they can track him down.

Does he get away with it? More importantly, does Mel? In the wake of his recent meltdowns, Gibson is definitely persona non grata as a person, but as a star, though it may stick in the craw to admit, he’s still got what it takes on screen. He looks a lot more grizzled, of course, than when he first started playing his hair-trigger hotheads (Lethal Weapon (opens in new tab)’s blue-eyed Martin Riggs appears positively fresh-faced by comparison) but he still oozes charisma. And when it comes to the film’s scorching shootouts, he’s still got the live-wire energy too.

On general release from Friday 11th May.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.