If an idyllic poster with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt lovingly embracing each other on a rustic street of Mexico should ever entice you, resist the temptation. You will probably find yourself falling asleep in an over air-conditioned movie theater.
Gore Verbinski’s newly released “The Mexican” is an adventure tale in which Jerry Welbach (Brad Pitt), an errand boy for the Mob, ventures into Mexico to recover a cursed legendary gun, The Mexican. Jerry is a pitifully indecisive and inept man who, from the beginning, is stalling between two threats, one from the mob leaders who want him to embark on the Mexican mission, and another from his girlfriend, Samantha (Julia Roberts) who is holding him to his promise to travel with her to Las Vegas. The beginning of the movie poses major problems in Jerry’s life, that will obviously be solved at the end of the movie.
Deciding that it is better to lose his girlfriend than his life, Jerry takes off to Mexico. The inconsiderate Samantha, after throwing her boyfriend’s clothing out the window in a tantrum, also decides to leave alone, but for Las Vegas. Despite their locations, Jerry and Samantha’s fates are tied together by Jerry’s journey. On her way down to Las Vegas, Samantha is kidnapped by Leroy (James Gandolfini), a professional killer who is sent out to keep her hostage in case Jerry fails to return the gun safely to his boss.
Jerry’s assignment in Mexico is punctured and elongated by his utter ignorance and disregard for the country, by inane mistakes and by completely random and unnecessary shootings. On his way through Mexico, Jerry hears the legend of the gun and the romance behind it told and retold in several ways, all leading to a tragic ending. The retelling of the legend and its overlap with the movie’s ending is clever, although some groans and shifts could be heard from the audience by the third time the legend was being re-enacted.
Samantha and Leroy enjoy the time that Jerry is taking in Mexico to bond and share their life and romance experiences, with Leroy admitting to his homosexuality. No matter how cliche the friendship-between-kidnapper-and-victim story line is, there is nevertheless something endearing and human about Leroy, one of the only characters in the story with any dimensionality. The other characters are so one-dimensional that even the all-time favorite actors Roberts and Pitt cannot make them interesting.
Pitt is only slightly successful in adding his charm to enhance the banality of Jerry’s character. Roberts, on the other hand, is less successful in enchanting the audience with her trademark smile in this movie, as she has done in the past. The fault may be in the role. Samantha is so vain that when her kidnapper points a gun at her head, she is wondering whether her kidnapper is homosexual since he does not want to rape her. Roberts executes the excruciatingly annoying role all too perfectly, throwing a tantrum one moment and then depending on that smile to resolve all problems.
The category “romantic comedy” may not suit “The Mexican” too well, because there is little chemistry between the two main characters. Whatever lessons the movie tries to teach about love — that love is like a box of chocolates? No, that’s not right– fall right through the cracks, because their relationship makes you wonder what, if anything, is so redeeming about it.
The setting, of course, is romantic and the colors and the traditional images of Mexico are feasts for the eyes. Just a warning for the naive viewer, however: Mexico is beautiful, but not exactly in the way they portray it in the movie. Despite a joke or two about the disrespectful gringo, the film itself remains an American, Hollywood traveler, describing Mexico and its people through the most unconvincing stereotypes.
“The Mexican” does have some redeeming characteristics as a form of entertainment. It has its amusing moments, and if you are a non-thinker, it lets you drift away for two hours in the exotic world of “Mexico,” the Mob, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts, without the need to exercise the brain. If you are a critic, it offers you hours of imagining ways in which the same idea of a cursed gun could have been constructed into a vastly better film.
Whichever you are, “The Mexican” leaves you with that question your fifth grade English teacher always told you to answer at the end of your papers: so what? At least if you are reading to the end of this article, you know. So do not be tempted by the warm, sunny and romantic image of the film’s poster. It is getting warm enough outside that just sitting alone on the lawn would probably make a more ideal afternoon.