A nameless drifter, called "The Man" (Adkins) wanders into the desert town of El Fronteras carrying a duffel bag full of money. El Fronteras happens to be run by a local drug cartel led by the sinister Culebra, who had the sheriff Chief Espinoza under his payroll, and they're not going to let The Man leave. Action ensues. Loads and loads of it.
The movie's overall theme and setting pays homage to classic Spaghetti Westerns of the 70s, featuring nameless gunslingers as protagonists who wanders into towns occupied by dangerous thugs, although much of the action scenes are influenced by modern-day directors and choreographers, such as a 5-minute, uninterrupted action scene lifted from John Woo's catalogue of films where Scott Adkins' character marches into a shantytown occupied by at least 40 mooks, leaving piles and piles of dead bodies everywhere he goes. With a runtime of only 70-odd minutes, El Gringo is immensely entertaining.
It is also currently Adkins' highest onscreen bodycount to date, where he left behind at least 65 corpses from beginning to the end of the movie.
This film provides examples of:
- After-Action Healing Drama: The Man, after being shot by Chief Espinoza, spends some time being healed by Anna, complete with Bandage Wince. Oh, and Anna uses her bra and panties as an improvised tourniquet to stop the bleeding on The Mans arms, leading to this line from him
The Man: "It's almost worth getting shot!"
- Badass Longcoat: El Jefe wears a trench coat throughout his entire fight scene while giving The Man the beating of his life.
- Bad People Abuse Animals:
- Early on after arriving in El Fronteras, The Man comes across a trio of punks bullying a dog which is tied to a leash. He promptly beats up all three of them.
- Chief Espinoza, who spends the whole movie trying to shoot stray dogs whom arent even attacking him, just for shits and giggles.
- Bare Your Midriff: Flacas clothing never covers her bellybutton, even before losing her coat to The Man in her first scene shes wearing a tube top that exposes her midriff behind her unbuttoned coat.
- Big Bad Ensemble: Theres at least 3 villains in the movie, Culebra, Chief Espinoza, and Dirty Cop Lieutenant West.
- Briefcase Full of Money: Well, duffel bag full of money.
- Boom, Headshot!: Done repeatedly by The Man.
- Butterfly Knife: Flacas preferred weapon, although she loses it to The Man when trying to mug him unsuccessfully. She retrieves it after The Man gets shot and wounded by Culebra, and in the end of the movie she uses this weapon again to kill Culebra after her HeelFace Turn.
- Car Fu: The Man pursuing Lieutenant West near the end of the film. The chase ends with The Man ramming his vehicle into Wests, causing both vehicles to end up totaled at the border of El Fronteras.
- Cool Hat: On Lieutenant West and El Jefe. Hilariously enforced with El Jefe, who must NEVER be seen without his hat during his one-on-one fight against The Man, El Jefe clearly has an advantage over his opponent, but The Man repeatedly knocks El Jefes hat off, causing El Jefe to stop fighting and retrieve his hat before resuming the battle.
- The Dog Bites Back: Literally. The Man is saved from being shot by Chief Espinoza, by the very same dog Espinoza tried to shoot throughout the movie, when the dog bites Espinoza in the wrist as he draws his gun.
- Dynamic Entry: In one of her many chase scenes with The Man pursuing her, Flaca managed to lose The Man after stealing his duffel bag, at which point she slows down to open the bag and check its contents. Cue The Man bursting out through the wooden door of a nearby building, tackling her off her feet and causing the bags contents to spill all over the streets.
- Fruit Cart:
- A cart shows up during the first foot chase between The Man and Flaca who just made off with his duffel bag of money. She topples the cart over to block him, at which point he just nimbly jumps across.
- In the shantytown shootout, a henchman on a roof falls off onto a cart of watermelons.
- Guns Akimbo: The Man does this with dual shotguns.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: El Jefe is too preoccupied beating up The Man, and didnt notice The Man retrieving a spare magazine and reaching for his holstered machine-pistol until The Man had yanked it off, and emptied shot after shot into El Jefe finally taking him down.
- Implacable Man: El Jefe, who is the bigger and stronger opponent against The Man in a David vs. Goliath fight.
- Impromptu Tracheotomy: The Man disposes of Lieutenant West by shooting him through the throat.
- Incompetent Guard Animal: The failure of the dog The Man adopts to help him in a fight (save for in the final scene) or warn him when someone is about to attack him or steal his money becomes a Running Gag.
- Inspector Javert: Lieutenant West, who will stop at nothing to have The Man arrested, even if it means pursuing him through the desert and the gangster-infested town of El Fronteras. Subverted when West is later revealed to be a Dirty Cop after the bag of money at the end.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: In the climax, Culebra's few remaining Mooks drop their guns and run after The Man comes back yet again and wins over the crowd of observing bystanders by handing out money.
- Leap and Fire: Done by The Man, especially in the shantytown shootout.
- Machete Mayhem:
- Culebra threatening Flaca for her failures using a huge machete.
- During the shantytown shootout scene, a few mooks tries getting the drop on The Man using machetes.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Flaca, who turns on Culebra after he tries to shoot her during his attempt to arrest The Man, and further berating her for failing him. For that, she stabs him In the Back just as Culebra is trying to kill The Man.
- Mugging the Monster: Flaca tries robbing The Man of his duffel bag when he arrives in El Fronteras. He subdues her non-lethally, and relieves her of her knife and jacket, at the same time commenting on her lack of skills at using her knife.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: The one-on-one duel between The Man and El Jefe briefly have The Man turning the battle in his favour by pinning El Jefe to the ground and punching him repeatedly in the face. But it only lasts for a few seconds, since El Jefe is an Implacable Man who knocks The Man off in a few seconds.
- No Name Given: So what is the name of Scott Adkins character? Just The Man? Ok, thatll do.
- One-Hit Polykill: During the shantytown shootout, The Man headshots THREE mooks in a narrow corridor using only one bullet.
- One-Man Army: The Man against a small legion of mooks in the shantytown shootout. The Man is also a one-man army in hand-to-hand combat, beating up several gangbangers in pursuit of his money despite a recent bullet wound to his arm.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: When Flaca tells Culbera that she thought stealing The Man's money would get her into his gang, he coldly tells her that the only way into his gang is to kill someone.
- Running Gag: Flaca repeatedly making off with the duffel bag full of money The Man is carrying, and The Man chasing her down.
- Scarily Competent Tracker: Lieutenant West's first scene has him figuring out the car that fled the shootout at the drug deal has a flat tire due to the tracks it leaves, and when he reaches the village, he's able to follow the footprints pretty well.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After seeing his DEA partners murdered in an ambush and spending years watching most of the people he arrested get out on bail, The Man decides to leave the War on Drugs behind and go on the run with two million dollars taken from a dead drug dealer.
- Taking You with Me: Attempted by Chief Espinoza, after being shot by The Man, where he tries shooting The Man In the Back in his dying breath. But Anna chucks a knife into him, finishing him off.
- Thirsty Desert: The entire movie is set in the desert town of El Fronteras. The Man is shown being delirious and desperate for water as he marches into the town early in the movie.