The Mexican

Click here for IMDB's info on The Mexican

By Gabriel Jinich.

Hollywood is capable of many incredible feats, but none seems more incredible than the fact that they can turn the first on-screen pairing of Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt into a boring, stupid excuse for a movie. The Mexican, directed by Gore Verbinski ("Mouse Hunt") and written by J.H. Wyman, sets its plot in motion with the first of an unbearable series of paradoxes and inconsistencies: a well-intentioned but dim-witted crook who is looking to go clean (Pitt) has screwed up so many of his previous assignments that his mob bosses punish him by handing him one more incredibly important task. You figure that one out. Threatened with death if he does otherwise, Pitt is forced to go to Mexico to retrieve a valuable but cursed antique gun. His girlfriend Sam (Roberts), who is tired of Pitt's failed attempts at leaving his life of crime, breaks up with him and heads to Vegas to start anew. On the way there, however, she is kidnapped by a mob hitman (James Gandolfini) who is asked to keep her hostage as insurance that Pitt will deliver the gun.

A la Tarantino, the movie shifts from crude violence to wannabe-hip comedy to fantasy, all while indulging in standard Hollywood stereotyping of both Mexicans and gangsters. But unlike Tarantino, Verbinski cannot handle the changes in tone (assuming they were intended in the screenplay in the first place), and the film comes out feeling like an incoherent mess. To top it off, every once in a while the movie pulls a Rashomon and shows us various childishly shot and ridiculously acted versions of the story of how the gun came to be cursed. Relying purely on plot-twists (often ludicrous but occasionally intelligent) to move the story along, the film eventually self-destructs when it tries to tie everything together.

The one thing The Mexican has going for it is James Gandolfini, who does an outstanding job with the token character of hitman with a heart of gold. Despite the added twist of having him be gay, the character is nowhere nearly as developed as, for example, Morgan Freeman in Nurse Betty ; yet, Gandolfini still manages to give the character - and the movie- something resembling a soul. That he is the only thing holding the picture together becomes painfully apparent when the movie loses all grip on its audience the second his character disappears. Not even a cameo appearance by Gene Hackman as the head mobster (also with a heart of gold) at the end of the film can rescue it from the depths to which it plummets once Gandolfini is gone. All in all, The Mexican is a waste of promising casting, interesting scenery, and the usually competent, if uninspired, technical Hollywood craftsmanship.