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THE MEXICAN (2001)

Starring: Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, and Gene Hackman

A star collaboration between two heavyweight actors such as Brad and Julia Roberts, what could be better then that? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is nowhere in sight with this lifeless romantic comedy revolving around two mismatched nitwits who seem to have the worst in luck when it comes to each everything else. But with Roberts colorful history of carrying films, and Pittís constant altercations of his each character he plays (sometimes he succeeds superbly, as FIGHT CLUB proved), one would think that the film could work. But everything lags on an on to an unconvincing yet predictable outcome.

Pitt plays lovable moron Jerry Welbach who unfortunately ran into some bad luck five years earlier when he accidentally ran a red light and smashed into the backend of a car. More unfortunate was that the car was being driven by a mob boss, and inside the trunk of the car was a hostage. The police arrest the mob boss who isnít too happy with the wide-eyed idiot who put him in jail for five years. Instead of killing the schmuck he had him work for him and his business, now being handled by his outside men. And, for the past five years Jerry has been running little errands now and then and is now on the verge of paying back the debt. But loud-mouthed girlfriend Samantha (Roberts), is fed up and tired of Jerry being more committed to doing what he is told then being a good petting dog and doing what she wants (does she not know if he doesnít do as he is told then he is a dead man?). Sam wants to movie to Las Vegas and itís now or never. But Jerry is now assigned to his last job, and that is to pick up an old Mexican pistol with a zany past and deliver it to his employers. The pistol is in Mexico waiting for him, so he heads down south of the border while Sam takes off to Vegas. And of course, one bumbling dumbbell Jerry gets to Mexico, one disaster follows another, as he isnít the only person interested in retrieving the pistol. And poor Sam is kidnapped by a sensitive gay hitman with the heart of gold (played by Gandolfini) as insurance for Jerry to come back with the pistol (through all of his mishaps, the powers that be believe Jerry may sell off the gun and take off with the cash). Jerry continues to screw up, and Sam has several heart to heart talks with her captor, even encouraging the guy to have a one nightstand with another in a Vegas hotel. Itís all fun and games when youíre dealing, or hell, even working for the Mafia.

The movie suffers terribly from total lack of chemistry between Pitt and Roberts. Though I have no complaints for them being apart for so long, itís the fact that they are together for such a short amount of time when we first meet them that there is absolutely no time to establish any feelings for them. Their first scene together is Sam throwing Jerryís stuff from above, as the two bicker and bitch about this and that and everything else. After listening to her ranting, one would assume heíd be happy to ditch her. And after getting to know Jerry, one would only come to the conclusion she is happy to be rid of such a dork who certainly canít argue his case very well. Gandolfini is fun to watch, but then uncomfortable sub-plots concerning him and his past just plug up the scenes he shares with Roberts. It could be a good sub-plot in another film, but here it feels awkward and distant and only attempting to make him more sympathetic and goody goody. His fate in the movie is also undeserved and downright cruel, and has absolutely no reasoning behind it (though it is pretty much forgotten by the time the credits have to roll).

There are several amusing moments that are done in flashback sequence revolving around the origins of the pistol. Those scenes are the funniest, but like the film itself, by the time the final flashback sequence comes itís a devastating and tragic scene and of course has foreshadows events that happen five minutes later on (I guess it was meant to create suspense, but completely fell short).

Gene Hackman makes an unnecessary cameo appearance as the mob boss, and the only truly note worthy performances comes from Gandolfini, who deserved a lot better then this. Roberts whines and coos, and Pitt whines and screams. Between all that whining and babbling about their relationships together, perhaps the film could have benefited at creating a relationship between the two. At one point Roberts blurts out, You have somehow managed to Forrest Gump your way through this. I canít help but feel the same way for the script, which lacks any romance or truly great comedy. The first hour or so promises something enjoyable. But the finale reminds us it had nothing going for it in the first place.

My Grade: D+