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DreamWorks SKG
Official Site
Director: Gore Verbinski
Producers: Paul Hellerman, Lawrence Bender, William S. Beasely, John Baldecchi
Written by: J.H. Wyman
Cast: Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini

Rating: out of 5

Warning: SLIGHT SPOILER in paragraph #4

THE MEXICAN is like an alcoholic confection. It’s covered in sweetness to make the bitter inside go down. And in the end it leaves you with the tiniest bit of a headache. There’s a fair amount of humor splashed through the film in hopes of covering up the oddly serious nature of the plot’s twists and progressions. Then afterwards, you’ll think back and realize that there were a lot of unanswered questions and plot conventions. Keeping with the metaphor, this film is light and brief. Easy to swallow, but a little harder to digest. All told, it falls short of Swiss chocolate but it’s a bit better than a Hershey kiss.

Brad Pitt plays Jerry Welbach, a Mafia bagman and boyfriend to Samantha Barzel (Julia Roberts). Their relationship is on the rocks. Sam wants Jerry to give up his job, but Jerry is such a screw-up that he can never finish the term of service he owes his employers. Jerry’s bosses promise him one last mission. Go to Mexico and bring back an ancient gun. Sam and Jerry fight over it. They break up. Jerry goes to Mexico. Sam goes to Las Vegas. Jerry has a few unforeseen problems. Sam gets kidnapped by Leroy (James Gandolfini). Calamity ensues.

I know that sounds sarcastic, but there are some honestly funny moments. Pitt has “lovable screw-up” down to a “T.” His puppy dog eyes, “Aww geez” expressions, and general naiveté make him a stark contrast in Verbinski’s rough and tough Mexico. Roberts plays herself, but it’s properly fitting here. Her dependent, tender personality is a nice change of pace from the ballsy women that seem to dominate today’s movies. Gandolfini plays the compassionate cold-blooded hitman, a role that sounds as ridiculous as it looks. Gandolfini might as well stamp “tough softy” on his forehead. His work on “The Sopranos” has dug him a type-cast grave. However, the movie is meant to be funny so this ridiculousness can be overlooked . . . until the plot twists.

Let me set something straight. People die in this movie. Not off screen, not in some dramatic fall from a roof, not by a humorous accident (well mostly). They got shot and you get to see every bullet. Not only that, but not all of them are bad guys. Some are totally innocent. This movie is rated “R” for a reason. The film is full of light romantic humor, silly dogs, and poor Spanglish. Then people start dying. It might have worked out well if this were a black comedy. But it is definitely not. The contradictory tones of the movie are so disorienting, they make it seem slightly sick and twisted in retrospect. When the happy couple drives off into the sunset (literally), you can’t help feeling like it was a happy ending. Later, you remember that people died as a result of their actions and the couple doesn’t care. I actually felt ashamed of being happy at the end.

Flaws aside, it’s a nice romp and certainly not a bad way to kill a couple afternoon hours. Take a date. It’s better than anything else that’s out. And like a box of chocolates you never know what surprise cameo you might find inside (*wink wink*).

—Zack Schenkkan

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

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Wait for video rental.

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