March 8, 2001

Head For The Border?

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So, you’ve all seen the trailers. Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts? Talk about opposites attracting, what were the casting people thinking putting these two together? They’re from two opposite ends of the spectrum of acting stereotypes. In movies, she’s glamour and big smiles, and usually he’s got a couple loose screws rattling around in his head. Surprisingly, these two manage to blend their stereotypical roles with new characters and come together to give cute and funny performances in the action comedy film, The Mexican.

Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt play Samantha Barzel and Jerry Welbach, a fairly dysfunctional couple whose fights are the comic highlight of the movie. Their main row in the beginning of the plot is about Jerry’s upcoming job with the local mob-like outfit: he has to go to Mexico and retrieve a cursed gun appropriately named “The Mexican.” Sam is upset since Jerry was supposed to be done with this line of work and the “happy” couple was supposed to go to Las Vegas. The two have words, Jerry gets on a plane to Mexico, Sam leaves for Las Vegas, angry as all hell, and the story begins.

The movie then chronicles the antics and bad luck of both Jerry and Sam, flipping back and forth between the two plot lines. No longer glamorous but still sporting the big smiles and brown doe eyes, Roberts manages quite well in the spunky role of Sam, a typical girlfriend who spends most of her time wondering why all men, especially Jerry, are inherently selfish. These musings don’t come in the form of whining or crying however; Sam would rather spaz out about Jerry’s shortcomings, making for some interesting and humorous monologues.

Pitt also does a good job in the role of Jerry Welbach, a reluctant criminal cursed with horrendous luck, making him not especially good at what he has chosen to do. Within minutes of acquiring the gun, Jerry manages to also acquire a dead body, but then must find a way to re-acquire his stolen car, containing both the dead body and the gun. The rest of Jerry’s story centers around the loss of the gun and his ensuing search for the elusive and much sought-after piece. One great thing that stems from Jerry’s chronic bad luck is that the audience is then treated to the comical sight of Brad Pitt flipping out in the face of adversity: in a split second of action he jumps in the air and twirls around, flailing his arms and shouting at the top of his lungs, only to land and do it again.

Sadly enough, the two are apart for much of the movie, due to the number of different plot lines incorporated into the story. When they manage to re-unite, however, sparks fly as the two fight about anything and everything, making the dialogue between these two the best part of the movie. Without two such charming actors to slip into the roles of the enigmatic characters, the movie would surely have fallen on its face.

The movie also manages to marry comedy, action and drama well. There’s the quirky couple, quite a lot of gunplay, and the sappiness stays close to endurable levels. One of the more interesting aspects of the movie is the subplot involving the legend of the gun. As Jerry encounters each of the subordinate characters who lead him to the desired piece, the legend is played out as a black and white silent movie, a rather nice touch that lends a certain old romance to the movie.

Despite all its good points, The Mexican never quite reaches that “must-see” movie status. Although entertaining, the ending is impossibly cheesy, and certain parts of the multitude of plot lines are hard to swallow. For instance, the legend of the gun, while interesting, somehow manages to affect everyone in life altering ways, even the hardened crime boss in jail who orders Jerry down to Mexico. Can we please have a reality check here?

So the $8 question remains: should you see it in the theaters? Here’s the final answer: only if you’re bored to tears and can make a matinee. It’s cute enough to be entertaining, though, so wait until The Mexican lands on the rental shelves for a fun night spent on the couch.

Archived article by Katie Porch