|"The Mexican" is Right on Target|
It's not often that Hollywood has the opportunity (opportunity = financial backing) to team two superstars in a major release. Salaries for marquee names have reached limits rivaled only by professional athletes. Even when studios are able to get the backing needed, they aren't guaranteed the film will be a hit, or that the stars will have on-screen chemistry. Notable superstar teamings that produced less-than-stellar results include Julia with Mel, DeNiro with Pacino, and, of course, the extremely forgettable "Ishtar" with Hoffman and Beatty.
Julia Roberts uses her considerable comedic talents to pull off the role of Samantha, the put-upon girlfriend of the increasingly inept Jerry, played by Brad Pitt. Jerry has gotten himself into trouble with the mob by accidentally playing a crucial role in the arrest of mob boss, Arnold Margolese (Gene Hackman). In one of the few scenes that Julia and Brad share in the film, we learn that Samantha is packed and ready to move to Vegas, when Jerry gets an order he can't refuse to go to Mexico and retrieve a priceless gun nicknamed "The Mexican." Dodging items thrown from the balcony by a frustrated and screaming Samantha, Jerry pleads for patience for this one last job. Despite the fact that if he fails to go to Mexico, he'll end up swimming with the fishes, his pleas fall on deaf ears.
Samantha hits the road for Vegas in her cramped VW Bug, pissed at Jerry, thinking their relationship is finished. Jerry takes off for Mexico where he apparently believes he'll have a more "native" experience by renting an El Camino. This particular El Camino comes equipped with a crazed dog with an attitude, who has an obsessive love for a deflated football. Jerry also is under the mistaken impression that by adding the letter "o" to the end of words, he is speaking Spanish (at least he doesn't go as far as yelling slowly to make himself understood).
Brad Pitt looks disheveled and acts confused - playing up his character's charming, bumbling incompetence. Everything he touches goes sour; every plan he makes ends up leading him further into trouble. While Jerry is off learning to ride burros and getting the grandson of the mobster killed, Leroy, played with scene-stealing virtuosity by James Gandolfini, kidnaps Samantha. Leroy has been hired by the mob to hold Samantha hostage to insure Jerry plays nice. Back in LA, Jerry's bosses believe he's ready to pull a fast one with "The Mexican," failing to recognize that plotting a double-cross is beyond his limited criminal abilities.
Jerry continues with his misadventures in Mexico, while Samantha and Leroy become chummy, discussing their love lives and past relationships like two sorority sisters. After many more plot twists, turns, and the introduction or reappearance of minor characters, Leroy and Samantha end up in Mexico where, finally, we get to see more scenes with Julia AND Brad. As befits a romance, the ending wraps up with the main characters remaining in love and, as befits the whole tone of Jerry and Samantha's relationship, passionately bickering.
If you don't try and follow the plot too closely, and if you keep in mind it's only entertainment, you'll love this film and the chemistry between Julia and Brad.
The opening weekend for "The Mexican" saw it topple "Hannibal" and capture the top spot at the box office. Opening in more than 2,900 theatres, "The Mexican" brought in a hefty $20 million during its first weekend.
Overall Grade: B-