Movies

Mattywood

The Mexican
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Rated R

The Mexican is a surprisingly entertaining romp that offers some of the most unique characters to storm the silver screen in quite some time. Its goofy spirit and oddball sense of heart make it a winner.

Brad Pitt (Fight Club) plays Jerry Welbach, a dim-witted grunge-era reject with an uncanny ability to attract trouble. Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich) plays Samantha Barzel, his on-again, off-again girlfriend; she's not the brightest gem in the jewelry store either. When they're not arguing, they make the perfect couple.

It's the Hard-Knock Life

The Mexican

The story picks up with Jerry and Samantha going through yet another breakup. They part ways and Jerry heads for Mexico while Samantha heads for Vegas.

Jerry has been put on a job to go south of the border and retrieve a valuable antique gun called "The Mexican." In capable hands, that wouldn't be a big deal. But blond-haired, pale-skinned Jerry's troubles begin as soon as he lands in Mexico and rents an El Camino in an attempt to blend in with his surroundings.

Murder and mayhem ensue and before long Jerry finds himself trading in the El Camino for a donkey. Along the way, he encounters a number of colorful characters and even befriends a rabid dog with a football fetish.

Stateside, Samantha finds herself kidnapped by the same group of thugs that are using Jerry to get the Mexican.

Jerry's from Mars, Samantha's from Venus, and Leroy's from…

The biggest surprise about The Mexican is that it is so character driven. Even the gun is given a history and a sense of personality.

Jerry isn't an asshole, he's just a somewhat below-average guy trying to keep his life from unraveling. As Samantha tells Jerry, "You have managed to Forrest Gump your way through this." Pitt makes Jerry an endearing character, one you can root for as he puts himself in one sticky situation after another.

While Samantha is not quite as well-defined a character, Roberts gives her a bit of a backbone and at the same time a big heart.

That heart shines as she carries on some humorous and touching conversations with her captor, Leroy (James Gandolfini, The Sopranos). Gandolfini successfully gives what could have been a mere two-dimensional caricature some real depth.

Happiness is a Warm Gun

On the downside, the film's violence is a little off-putting and at times feels out of place amidst all the comedy and character development. It also loses its pace as it pulls the different story threads together at the end.

Overall, however, Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt) has crafted an engaging entertainment with a lot to offer. To the movie's credit, nothing comes across as contrived, yet what happens next is rarely obvious. That's a rare feat for a major studio release.

• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.

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