Miscasting, Tedium Vie With Humor in 'The Mexican'

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Miscasting, Tedium Vie With Humor in 'The Mexican'

Try, if you can, to imagine Anthony Hopkins starring in an episode of "Friends," America's favorite sitcom, where the main characters wander about their apartment and neighborhood coffee shop until a problem as vexing as how to win back your lover surfaces and requires everyone to widen their eyes and flail their arms in conniption fits. The idea of a cool calculating Hopkins among a sea of befuddled models, who emphasize every utterance of the word "I" with a mea culpa striking of the chest, is sobering enough to keep most directors from allowing this scenario to ever materialize.

So when a movie like Gore Verbinski's "The Mexican," makes it to the big screen, you have to stop and ask yourself "How?"

Tough guy James Gandolfini, from the award-winning HBO special "The Sopranos," seems like a fish out of water with all the "Friends"- esque slapstick humor that Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts provide. Though crowds may gather around to see these two ignite some sparks in their first film together, they actually spend most of their time apart and audiences will leave the theater remembering only Gandolfini's noteworthy performance.

You want to give credit to Pitt and Roberts for both playing airheads so convincingly. Roberts is especially adept at delivering a never-ending stream of comical psychobabble, but it is Gandolfini's character that has the most depth.

The movie basically has no sense of direction until his character first appears, and no sense of closure until his last exit scene.

Better editing would have cut this long-winded monster down to size, but unfortunately all the good elements can be found right alongside the pointless ones. In addition, the script's quality could have been improved with smoother transitions between scenes. As it stands, the film is a gumbo of ideas that work and others that flop.

The story begins with the couple Jerry (Pitt) and Samantha (Roberts) on the verge of a breakup because of Jerry's inability to admit that he is an idiot, a liar and completely unconcerned about Samantha's feelings (or so she says).

The exact type of illegal activities Jerry is involved in is ambiguous, but it is somewhat taken for granted that he is running errands of a very shady nature for a crime boss who will kill him if he doesn't finish his last job.

Unfortunately, Samantha has about as much patience with Jerry as his gangster employers do and, after breaking up with him, decides to leave for Las Vegas by herself.

The mission Jerry has been sent on involves retrieving a cursed antique gun from the bowels of rural Mexico. What promises to be a simple enough trip, and a job that not even Jerry could mess up, turns out to be a disaster for this eternal loser.

After his designated partner and contact is killed by a stray bullet, his rental car is stolen with the coveted gun still inside. To make matters worse, he finds out that his contact was a grandson of the mob boss.

Meanwhile, Samantha gets herself kidnapped and is used as bait by a rogue hit man (Gandolfini), to make sure that Jerry doesn't get skittish and follows through with the mission as planned.

Both Pitt and Roberts are miscast for this type of movie. Basically, their characters are so lacking in anything memorable that they could have been replaced by anyone with less fame and a smaller guaranteed salary. The dialogue between the two is funny at times, but the chemistry between Gandolfini and Roberts is a lot more substantial and makes Pitt seem like he's along just for the ride.

The other disappointment, that you most definitely will begin to feel in your lower back about halfway through, is the length of this film.

The movie could have been cut by about 30 minutes because when Gandolfini finishes his last scene the movie basically flatlines.

Clocking in at a bold two hours, at its best the movie was generally pleasurable for about an hour, and at its worst was one of those movies that makes you squirm till you sweat (regardless of the air conditioning).

by Joseph Kim

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