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By Herb Kane | March 8, 2001

CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Lou Lumenick (New York Post), Dave White (, Roger Ebert & Richard Roeper (“Ebert & Roeper and the Movies,” Chicago Sun-Times), Julie Hinds (, Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly), Susan Stark (Detroit News), Bob Graham (San Francisco Chronicle), Chris Gore (, Desson Howe (Washington Post), Jeff Vice ( 
* * * out of 4 stars (R)
My wife and I ate a local Mexican restaurant with friends before attending “The Mexican.” I thought the spicy food might get to me by night’s end, but it was the negative film reviews that gave me gas.
“The Mexican” is actually an old pistol loaded with timeless legends. Jerry (Brad Pitt) is ordered by his mob boss to go to Mexico and retrieve the priceless gun, and his girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts) is upset he is doing a job for the mob. Sam blows up and leaves for Vegas. Then a sensitive, gay contract killer, Leroy (James Gandolfini), kidnaps Sam – and here the story really takes off. Critics, however, complain that Pitt and Roberts are rarely together in the film.
Lou Lumenick (New York Post) said, “They do not, in fact, have a bona-fide scene together until 85 minutes into this movie, a head-scratching choice for an alleged romantic comedy that stumbles on just past the two-hour mark.” Dave White ( asks, “Why would anyone put two huge movie stars in a film and then keep them apart for over 70 percent of the film?”
Maybe, Dave, it’s because the filmmakers wanted to do something different and fun; and irritate critics like Lou and you!
Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper went head-to-head on their TV show “Ebert, Roeper and the Movies” (Buena Vista TV). Roeper said, “They keep them apart for two thirds of the story, which is just infuriating and disappointing.”
Ebert fires back, “The story is about two people who are apart!”
Roeper’s brain apparently went “South of the Border” and landed inside a donkey’s rear-end. He needs to realize the film isn’t really a true romantic comedy. It’s not even a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan wannabe. If anything, it’s a dark comedy/adventure. The real romance here is with James Gandolfini and the camera. Most critics agree:
–  “Gandolfini’s big, soothing presence fills the screen.” Julie Hinds ( ^ –  “What Gandolfini demonstrates is how one powerful player can regulate the thermostat of an entire film.” Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) ^ –  “He’s just priceless.” Susan Stark (Detroit News) ^ –  “As a lovelorn hit man, Gandolfini and his melancholy puss raise the interest level of every scene they share.” Bob Graham (San Francisco Chronicle)
Chris Gore ( disagrees: “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?”
Right! But that doesn’t make this character wrong, Chris. In fact, it makes him more interesting. Heck, even Sam said to Leroy, “You’re a very sensitive person for a cold blooded killer.” Gandolfini brings the best out of Roberts and he’s the main reason to watch this movie.
Desson Howe (Washington Post) said, “At no point do Jerry and Samantha seem romantically connected at all.”
Are you blind, Desson? There’s a scene where Sam asks Jerry, “When two people really love each other, but cannot seem to make their relationship work, at what point do they stop trying?” The answer comes so naturally to Jerry. It’s the most romantic part of the film!
There’s an irony about all this complaining among critics. Roger Ebert said it best in his Chicago Sun-Times review, “If it had been a Pitt-Roberts two-hander, there wouldn’t have been room for Gandolfini’s wonderful character, and that would have been a shame.”
A shame, indeed! Remember the first scene with Pitt and Roberts? Their little fight scene was somewhat annoying. Imagine, for one moment, this dominating the film. I think you get the picture.
Jeff Vice ( summed the movie up best: “Almost everything works in this well-crafted dark comedy/thriller, which is easily the best, most enjoyable, major-studio-produced movie so far this year.”
I give “The Mexican” 3 stars. Why? The filmmakers keep Hollywood’s hottest talent – Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts – apart for most of the film and it worked! Plus they managed to piss off the critics all at the same time.
It’s beautiful.
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