Expectations are a terrible thing. There are films incorrectly marketed ("Little Nicky," "Red Planet"), and there are films that are fraudulently marketed. From the looks of "The Mexican's" trailers and TV spots, one should assume a light-hearted caper with a ton of laughs and fierce sexual chemistry between stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. Sadly, "The Mexican" (IMDb listing) is far from a joyful moviegoing experience, with Pitt and Roberts spending almost the entire run of the film apart from each other. Those expecting a superstar summit will receive a violent (two heads and a throat are blown open by bullets), coarse debacle of a film. The marketing paints a glowing picture of a quirky, fun night at the movies. "The Mexican" is about as far from fun as one can get.
Jerry (Brad Pitt) is trying to break free from his criminal past for the sake of his girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts). When pulled in for one last job, Jerry is sent to Mexico to retrieve an antique pistol dubbed "The Mexican," which holds an ancient curse. To make sure Jerry pulls off the job without a hitch, the mob sends a brute named Leroy (James Gandolfini) to kidnap Samantha as insurance. Samantha and Leroy begin a tender friendship when Samantha confides to Leroy about relationship problems, and Leroy reveals his homosexuality. Back in Mexico, Jerry finds himself getting into all sorts of trouble trying to locate the gun, and back home, dangerous people are beginning to think Jerry is keeping the gun for himself.
Director Gore VerbinskiÕs previous feature credit is the passable 1997 slapstick comedy "Mouse Hunt." Verbinski is obviously a visual stylist who doesn't shy from a good sight gag. "The Mexican" is not served well by this rather limited range. ItÕs a twisted tale full of tonal changes and complicated storytelling, but Verbinski is much more interested in pee jokes and gun drawing. Under the thumb of a different director, one maybe a bit older and not with a Nathan Lane vs. rodent flick to his name, "The Mexican" could be executed as I'm sure it was meant to be. Under Verbinski, beautiful locations are wasted, there is a dangerous condescension to Mexico woven into the fabric of the picture, and the story never thickens the way it should. "The Mexican" shows that Verbinski is not ready for the big leagues.
Teaming Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts should be a cause for celebration. They are two talented actors with enough charisma to sink an aircraft carrier. So why does "The Mexican" fall right on its face from the very beginning? To start with, the screenplay by J.H. Wyman doesn't seem like it was meant to be a comedy, yet everybody making the film assumes it is. The jokes fall flat, and when true motivation fails them, a character gets bonked in the head Jerry Lewis-style.
As expected, Julia Roberts relies on her trusty arsenal of facial bells and whistles to pull her through the story. Director Verbinski keeps the camera tight on Roberts the entire movie, and she is acutely aware of it. She milks every close-up for all of her "America's Sweetheart" goodwill. Brad Pitt is the real disappointment of "The Mexican." Parading around like a deaf-mute "Gong Show" contestant, Pitt shows clearly that he needs a good script and a director that will say no to him for optimum performance range.
As for James Gandolfini, here is an actor who has been playing the very same character for 10 years now. Yet due to the success of "The Sopranos," we now give him awards for repeating himself. Playing the tough guy hit man in "The Mexican," Gandolfini is breaking no new ground. His performance is predictable, and his character's homosexuality smacks of tokenism rather than true character insight.
"The Mexican" drags on and on just past the two hour mark, littered with dozens of false endings promising relief from all the mediocre nonsense on the screen. If you decide to take in "The Mexican" to bring along a crossword puzzle. Trust me, around the 90-minute mark, the seven-letter name for "8 down: Star of TV's THE JEFFERSONS _______ Hemsley" will start to look far more exciting then anything happening to the characters in "The Mexican."
Filmfodder Grade: D