The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday September 27th

Unmoving `Mexican' Ignores Its Strengths

The Mexican

2 Stars

The pairing of superstars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in "The Mexican" might be a dream come true to some -- but after viewing the film, you may change your mind and decide it's more like a nightmare.

Pitt and Roberts are hardly ever on screen together, and hit man Leroy (James Gandolfini, from HBO's "The Sopranos") has more chemistry with Roberts than Pitt. Megastars are naturally expected to deliver a jewel of a film. When they don't, all the hype only leads to greater disappointment.

Viewers can enjoy a tender moment between the two for about a minute before Roberts starts berating Pitt with annoying therapy-session words such as blame shifting.

Pitt is charming as an innocent, bumbling mob gofer, Jerry Welbach, who keeps messing up jobs because of the demands of his girlfriend, Samantha (Roberts). But the spark between Pitt and Roberts is killed by their characters, who bicker more than love each other.

Jerry is the typical maladroit American in Mexico and Pitt's performance as the hapless mob bagman provides the much-needed laughs.

Jerry has to choose between two ultimatums, finish one last job for the mob or have Samantha leave him. He chooses the mob because his life is at stake, and with Samantha only his love-life is at stake. The whole plot is driven by Jerry's assignment, which is to go to Mexico, find an antique pistol -- "the Mexican" -- and return it to his mob boss.

The legend of the pistol and its curse, which involves two lovers that it kept apart, is pieced together in flashbacks. Then comes the realization that it is a corny plot device used to bring out Jerry and Samantha's own plight of unrealized love.

The subplot of the pistol's history seems stretched to help the film limp along. It seems as though the film reel is replaying itself and Jerry will be stuck in Mexico forever. The two hours that it takes for everything to wrap up could have been condensed into much less.

The real star of the film is the sensitive and gay Leroy (Gandolfini). He gives the film a much-needed dynamic character in the form of a softhearted killer. His connection with Samantha as her kidnapper is heartwarming, although Roberts grins instead of acts her way through the film (as is usual for her).

The film's plots twist and turn but nothing is ever completely explained. Director Gore Verbinski ("Mouse Hunt") fails to tie up the loose ends that really make no sense in the first place.

A kernel of a good flick is buried in the hectic back-and-forth, however. There are a few good laughs, an intricate story that has a pop culture Western flair to it and likable characters. These qualities are hidden by the inexplicable failure of the film to capitalize on any of its strong points. Verbinski wanted to have it all, but only manages to spread the film too thin.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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