When stars of the caliber of Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are cast, a project ceases to be a film and turns into an event. Or in the case of “The Mexican” a non-event. From a story standpoint, I can see what attracted Pitt and Roberts to the film – it’s a small, character-driven comedic drama, with an indie film feel that comes from the cool, unexpected plot twists mixed with some ultra violent shenanigans. Jerry Welbach (Brad Pitt) is head over heels in love with Samantha Barzel (Julia Roberts). But when he gets orders from his mob boss to go on a “business” trip to Mexico, Samantha issues an ultimatum about their relationship. Jerry chooses to leave her and go south of the border to do the job. He’s sent to retrieve the “Mexican” a fabled, priceless antique gun that is also said to be cursed.
Samantha decides to escape and leave it all behind, so she heads to Las Vegas to start over. She is ambushed and kidnapped by hired killer Leroy (“The Sopranos'” James Gandolfini) who tags along to Vegas just to keep tabs on her. Leroy is after the Mexican as well and Samantha is his insurance policy.
Meanwhile, Jerry’s adventures in Mexico get out of hand when he too easily gets his hand on the glorious gun, then gets his rental car stolen and loses the gun, then retrieves it from some scary banditos, then loses the gun again, and on and on. It gets kind of ridiculous. Finally, a mob pal comes down to “help” Jerry while plotting on the side to off him and take the gun for himself. In the midst of all of this is a recurring retelling of the tale of the gun itself which is shown in silent movie fashion. The silent movie fable changes each time it is told but it involves the love of a peasant boy for the unattainable daughter of the gunsmith who creates the Mexican and their doomed relationship.
Back in Vegas, Samantha quickly forms a bond with her abductor who also acts as her analyst doling out love advice and dissecting what’s wrong between her and Jerry. We soon learn that contract killer Leroy is a closet homosexual who just wants to be loved. Aaaaaw. Samantha beams with that trademark big-toothed-Julia-Roberts-smile when Leroy finds love and locks her in her own room so he can go off and have a good time. Oh joy! What would Tony Soprano say? Folks, this just doesn’t work, not the part about Leroy being gay, but the fact that he is so sensitive. His job is to kill people, right?
Strangely Pitt and Roberts share very little screen time and spend more than three quarters of the film apart. And it’s a good thing too because once they get together in the end, Roberts could not be more irritating. Damn, I can see why Pitt’s character Jerry left for Mexico in the first place. She is irritating!
The whole movie has kind of a “Pulp Fiction” feel, which is no surprise as the film is produced by Quentin Tarantino partner Lawrence Bender. “The Mexican” began with a solid script and might actually have worked as a small indie movie, with an unknown cast. But as an event picture with big stars, it falls flat on its face.