The New Movie 'Gringo' Takes A Wild Look At The Legal Weed Business

Amazon Studios/STX Entertainment

The business of marijuana is changing rapidly. While not too long ago, cannabis was illegal in all forms in the United States, acceptance of the drug is growing rapidly. Medical marijuana is now legal in 30 states; with eight of those states, plus Washington, D.C., taking that a step further with legal recreational marijuana. So as weed emerges from the criminal underworld and segues into a legitimate business, some weird stuff is expected to happen, which is exactly what the movie Gringo deals with. But is Gringo based on a true story?

The movie is not inspired by reality, despite how it may seem. The film's plot centers around a businessman named Harold Soyinka, played by David Oyelowo, who works for a company that has just developed a new highly effective pill form of medical marijuana. Harold is sent to Mexico to deliver the medication's formula to the lab where it's to be produced, but ends up being kidnapped by a drug cartel who loathe Harold's company because of previous dealings with them that went south. The story is wild, for sure, but it also seems somewhat plausible given what we know about the audacity of Mexican drug cartels, the cutthroat nature of the American pharmaceutical industry, and the constant progress being made in the field of medical marijuana. However, when it comes to the events seen in Gringo, they're all pure fiction.

In fact, the story on screen isn't even the same as what was originally written by screenwriters Anthony Tambakis and Matthew Stone. The main character, Harold, was conceived as a white American, and it wasn't until actor David Oyelowo met with director Nash Edgerton that the pair settled on turning him into a Nigerian immigrant. "I read the script, loved it, met with Nash Edgerton and managed to persuade him that I would be right for this," Oyelowo said in an interview with Parade's Walter Scott. "As we continued to play with it, I landed on the idea of playing him as a Nigerian immigrant, which just opened up so much of the story for us and really enabled us to go in all sorts of unexpected directions."

Although the film isn't based on an actual drug-related scandal/adventure, there have been plenty of movies made that are just that, so take a look below at some similarly-themed films whose plots really were ripped from the headlines.



This biopic depicts the rise and fall of drug kingpin George Jung, who played a major role in American cocaine distribution in the 1970s and '80s.


'American Made'

Released just last year, this comedy-action film tells the true story of pilot/drug runner for Pablo Escobar/DEA informant/rumored CIA drug runner Barry Seal.


'Alpha Dog'

Though all the names were changed for the film, this is a dramatization of the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Nicholas Markowitz by 20-year-old drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood.


'Pain & Gain'

A trio of bodybuilders, all of whom have had their issues with drugs, plot a kidnapping. Things don't go according to plan.


'American Gangster'

A powerhouse performance from Denzel Washington anchors this biopic of gangster Frank Lucas, who smuggled heroin into the U.S. from Vietnam in the caskets of dead American soldiers.



One of the most classic mafia movies of all-time, this Martin Scorsese film tells the story of mobster turned FBI informant Henry Hill. Cocaine plays a lead role.


'City Of God'

This Brazilian film is based on the novel of the same name by Paulo Lins, but its story was inspired by actual events involving the rise of the drug trade in Rio.


'Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas'

Less filled with serious crime than the other entries on this list, this portrayal of journalist Hunter S. Thompson's drug-fueled trip across Nevada is nevertheless just as outrageous as the previously mentioned films.

Gringo may not be based on a true story, but its wild depiction of drugs, crime, and colorful characters fits in perfectly with similar movies that are.