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The Mexican

Starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts
Screenplay by J.H. Wyman
Directed by Gore Verbinski

IN SHORT: Goofy fun. [Rated R for violence and language. ]

We're not sure if we can attribute Brad Pitt's latest choices of work to his marriage to sitcom star Jennifer Aniston. Whatever it was, Pitt has lightened up considerably and the net result is his second ridiculously enjoyable performance in a row. Unlike his work in Snatch, in director Gore Verbinski's The Mexican you can understand every single syllable the man says <vbg>

As if to emphasize how dysfunctional couples are the only way to go to find true happiness Jerry Welbach (Brad Pitt) is the whippee at the verbal end of Samantha Barzel's (Julia Roberts) overwhelming need to be the decision maker in their relationship. Due to a traffic accident five years earlier, Jerry is in debt of a kind to a mob boss (Gene Hackman), who is doing hard time because of it. So he has "worked" for the mob, doing odd jobs and doing them all badly.

We must emphasize that Jerry isn't a bad guy and he isn't involved in doing anything illegal. He's sweet and he's very much in love and he's nothing more than a go-fer. As far as this story goes, all he has to do is go to Mexico and bring back an antique handgun currently in the possession of the boss' grandson Beck (David Krumholtz). Jerry's problem is that he is incompetent, or perhaps just incredibly unlucky, to the nth power. That's what his immediate boss, Nayman (Bob Balaban) is counting on and it is also where The Mexican crosses the line and dances into that delicate area where too much is sometimes too damned much.

The other side of the line involves two enforcer types, played by Sherman Augustus and James Gandolfini, each trying to kidnap Samantha to ensure that Jerry gets this job done "right". We're not going to explain what that means, we'll just say that it gets incredibly complicated and, with a major tip of the hat to screenwriter J.H. Wyman, it's an incredible amount of fun. Simply, the gun is worth an incredible amount of money. It also "cursed," bringing bad luck to whomsoever crosses its path. The reason for the curse, well, it depends on who tells the story and it gives director Verbinski the opportunity to parody almost any heavy duty dramatic Western ever made.

We're not ignoring Roberts, who spends her half of the movie in the company of Gandolfini practicing her brand of amateur psychoanalysis on his balding pate. While our initial description of Samantha makes her sound like a harpy she is, to be fair, a hefty piece of work. Ego-centric, domineering, totally controlling and just like a story that threatens to go out of control and never does, perfectly played and fun to watch. We're not saying that the character is sympathetic. We're just glad that we're not involved with anyone like her in what passes for our equivalent of real life.

Which is The Mexican in a nutshell. Complicated enough to keep us interested. Funny enough to keep us laughing and seasoned with enough random gunfire to keep everything on edge. It is parody and comedy and mob movie all rolled up into one, with characters whose lives we can watch and enjoy . . . and be damned glad that we don't live in the same world as any of 'em.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Title, he would have paid...


If you put something as complicated as The Mexican in the hands of lesser actors you could have a mess. Give it to Pitt and Roberts and Gandolfini and Verbinski and you've got a real good time for all of us grownups.

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