The Mexican

The Mexican marks the first collaboration between stars Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt (they will be together again in the upcoming remake of Oceans Eleven). This is not surprising, since although both are talented actors, they gravitate towards vastly different films. Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Runaway Bride) leans more towards the mainstream, while Pitt (Snatch, Fight Club) takes edgier roles which require him to stretch his abilities. Superficially, The Mexican looks like a Roberts vehicle. What the advertising does not say is that the movie is surprisingly violent, and the two do not share a significant amount of screen time.

The nice part is that it allows both to focus on their strengths. Jerry Welbach (Pitt) is trying to go straight, but his past associates will not let him. His girlfriend Samantha Barzel (Roberts) is sick and tired of his old life. Welbach's new assignment is to go to Mexico and retrieve a gun, or die. He thinks he has no choice but to go, and Barzel believes he is merely being selfish. They split, with Welbach headed towards Mexico and Barzel towards Las Vegas. On the way, Leroy (James Gandolfini, HBO's The Sopranos, 8MM) kidnaps Barzel as insurance that Welbach return with the gun (not realizing they broke up). In Mexico, Welbach loses the gun, and must go to great lengths to retrieve it. Meanwhile, Leroy and Barzel unexpectedly begin bonding as Leroy counsels her about her relationship.

Pitt gets to play a clumsy oaf, with traces of his 12 Monkeys performance, both physically and verbally. Welbach blunders his way through each situation, always trying to do the right thing but never succeeding. Roberts' character is more high-strung and neurotic. Gandolfini comes off the best, going against type for both him and his character type. Leroy is a hulking menace, but sensitive and caring at the same time. One moment he quickly fires bullets into a man, the next he discusses relationships with Roberts. Because of the dual nature of the movie, the story constantly goes from Mexico to Las Vegas and back. This is distracting, and each story loses much momentum. It is also hard to see any real chemistry between Roberts and Pitt because of limited screen time.

The making of The Mexican is almost another movie unto itself. It was almost never made. But here it is, thanks to the persistence of writer J.H. Wyman (Pale Saints). The title refers to the gun Welbach is after. Director Gore Verbinksi (Mouse Hunt) uses a mock-silent film style to film the history of the gun (complete with fake film reel sounds) which is a nice touch. Nevertheless, there are still things not as nice (aside from the constant flips). Many of the attempts at humor do not elicit laughs, including Wyman's strange fascination with urination. The movie itself also feels longer than it needs to be, with individual scenes drawn out for no apparent reason. The bloodshed also feels unnecessary. Adding it takes away some of the inherent goofiness of the film. The worst element is an act perpetrated by one of the characters that is very against both his/her nature and character. The Mexican has its moments, but is ultimately barely satisfying.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
2 hours, 3 minutes, Rated R for violence and language.

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