Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in their first film together! It will be the Romance of the Century. Well, no. The makers of “The Mexican” have created a film in which the two leads spend the majority of the film apart. Folly? Well, no.
Jerry (Pitt) is a low-level errand boy for some local gangsters. He promises his self-help crazed girlfriend, Sam (Roberts), that he will settle down and find a respectable job, leaving that life behind. Jerry’s boss has other ideas. Jerry must make one last run to pay him back for all of the jobs Jerry has screwed up. Jerry must go to Mexico to retrieve a legendary pistol called ‘The Mexican’. Sam is fed-up and leaves for Vegas without Jerry. Jerry heads for Mexico and runs into many complications. One of these complications is that Sam is kidnapped by Leroy (James Gandolfini), a hit man hired by Jerry’s boss to babysit Sam and ensure that Jerry is successful.
“The Mexican” is essentially two road movies. The story of Jerry’s trip to Mexico and Sam’s trip to Vegas are told concurrently for much of the film. Each story is interesting and, at times, funny. But what these stories do is keep the two stars apart for all but about 30 minutes of the film. The two stories are well-told, but it seems odd that the two actors are apart.
The Mexican is a legendary pistol. The legend behind the firearm is told more than once, each time the legend changes. As we watch these stories unfold, sepia-toned images play out as old newsreels or home movies. This is a nice touch. As the movie tells a story that is slightly over the top, these fable segments help to ground the rest of the film.
Roberts is funny. She plays a fairly high maintenance woman. During the course of the film, she manages to make the audience care about the character. This is a real accomplishment given our initial impression of her character. Pitt is also good. A low-life but likable enough character.
James Gandolfini is superb. Leroy’s job is to grab Sam and hold her as insurance. As she spouts her self-help-isms, Leroy’s inner-self is drawn to her. As they become friends, his professional life begins to conflict with his personal life. As they become friends, they share personal things which surprise us and make us laugh. Leroy’s character makes a major revelation and Gandolfini makes this completely believable.
“The Mexican” is not the film most people are expecting. Is that a good thing? Well, yes.