The Mexican

Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring: Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini, Bob Balaban.
MPAA Rating: R for violence and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
March 6, 2001

As I anticipate the great snowfall that never seems to come, I must think about a film I saw on Friday. Scared by the weather reports, I spent all day inside and instead of writing this review, I took a nice, long nap. Now, it's the wee hours of the morning, and I can't sleep, yet my memories of The Mexican are quite faded. I have my notes, and a lasting impression that was somewhat ambivalent. Here's what I recall:

Brad Pitt plays Jerry Welbach, a nice enough guy that is in debt to a crime boss named Margolis. He reports to a middleman named Nalin (Bob Balaban), who says he has to do one more job to pay off his debt, since his last "last" job went sour. Jerry is not the most intelligent guy, but he means well. He only has trouble concentrating and keeping his girlfriend, Samantha (Julia Roberts), happy.

His announcement of this new job makes Samantha throw him out of their bungalow, even though he would certainly be killed if he didn't take this job. Samantha seems to care more about Jerry keeping promises than having him stay alive, which is not a good basis for a relationship. So, Jerry heads off to Mexico to pick up Margolis' grandson, Beck (David Krumholtz), and an antique pistol called "The Mexican". The gun, according to legend, is cursed. This proves to be true when Beck gets killed by a falling bullet fired by a Cinco de Mayo reveler, and Jerry's rented El Camino gets stolen with Beck's corpse and the gun inside. When news reaches the States, Margolis assigns a hitman named Leroy (James Gandolfini) to kidnap Samantha until Jerry comes back with the gun.

Hoo, that was complicated -- and I left a great deal of the plot out of the summary. The Mexican goes on for about two hours, with all sorts of plot twists -- each making Jerry's situation much worse. Pitt carries the film well enough, and the scenes with Roberts and Gandolfini are entertaining, but there is something not quite right about the film.

It works as a comedy, despite its length, but it is too complex to be taken lightly. When a film asks this much of the audience, it needs to put up on the supply end. The characters are very thin, especially Samantha, who can only be explained by a severe hormone imbalance or bad writing (I'll leave it to the viewer to decide which). Gandolfini's character, well, let's say that even though he's a hitman, he is different from Tony Soprano in a very big way.

The millions who saw The Mexican over the weekend may not care about its inconsistency or lack of believable characters. They surely enjoyed seeing Pitt and Roberts together for the first time, even though they were rarely on screen simultaneously. It's good enough for mainstream appeal, and the public will be satisfied to laugh for once this year at the movies. You know that comedy has been lacking when the funniest film of the last six months has been Shadow of the Vampire. Judging by the trailers I've been seeing for the spring slate, more discriminating filmgoers will have a long wait before they'll be able to see a decent comedy again. No wonder films like this make money.

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The Mexican (2001)

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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan