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THE MEXICAN (2001)
THE MEXICAN is an uncanny comedy that develops delightful caricatures in its characters. After the klutzy Jerry is sent off to Mexico to recover a coveted gun for conman Margolese, his unstable, overly dramatic, ultra feminist girlfriend throws a hissy and takes off to Vegas. Along the way Sam is hijacked, twice at the same mall, and her trip to Vegas involves the company of gay hitman Winston, ‘Leroy’ who eagerly waits for Jerry to return from Mexico with the pistol.
Directed by: Gore Verbinksi.
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Romance, Adventure.
Tagline: When two people truly love one another they never give up…
Rated: R for language and violence.
Jerry (Brad Pitt) is a klutz. Everything about him renders him inept for the con/gangster business. Yet, an accomplice to the notorious criminal lord Margolese (Gene Hackman) he is. Having ‘accidentally exposed’ Margolese after crashing into his car, Margolese, now behind bars, has Jerry work off his time by doing jobs for him. But Jerry always seems to screw things up, so badly, that even though he was supposed to have already finished his ‘last job’, his recent screw up earns him the honor of having to do one more ‘last job’, much to the dismay of his girlfriend Sam (Julia Roberts).
Sam, an overly dramatic, super-sensitive, feminist whose only desire is to pack up and head to Vegas, can’t seem to understand why Jerry needs to do his ‘one last job’. Throwing a hissy, Sam berates Jerry, calling him a selfish blame shifter. But poor Jerry just wants to stay alive, and unless he goes to Mexico he surely won’t remain that way for long. Nevertheless Sam packs up and heads to Las Vegas while Jerry heads to Mexico. His assignment: to recover the coveted Mexican pistol, whose legend precedes its reputation. Traveling via his ‘authentic’ El Camino, his rental car salesman predicts Jerry’s rough journey as he heads out to a small town to receive the pistol from Margolese’s nephew.
Having retrieved the pistol, after of course hearing the dramatic tale of its origins, Jerry and Margolese’s nephew head to the car. But the latter receives a bullet to the head and Jerry is left to account for the death of his enemy’s own nephew. To make matters worse Jerry’s car is stolen while he is reporting the latest snafu to his partner. Forced to resort to travel by ‘donkey’, yes donkey, Jerry heads in the direction of his car. But even the donkey deserts the unlucky Jerry who now has to use his ‘gringo diplomacy skills’ so as to hitch-hike a ride with some Mexicans. Along the way Jerry trades in his watch for a ‘cucharo’ which comes with a ‘rabid dog’, free of charge. Relying on the beat up Ford to take him to his rental, Jerry winds up, in a hilarious scene, shooting his perpetrators foot so that he ‘learns his lesson’ and ‘stops stealing from others’. Having retrieved the gun and his El Camino, Jerry heads back to his hotel.
But back in the states things have gotten sticky. Sam, after being hijacked once in the bathroom by a mysterious African male, is re-hijacked by ‘Leroy’, Winston. Heading to Vegas with some much unexpected company, Sam and the ‘cold-blooded’ killer begin to bond over their dramatic personal lives. Winston, “Leroy”, turns out to be a bigger teddy bear than hitman, and a gay one at that, whose days of killing have left him lonely and jaded and in need of some emotional comfort. Enter ‘the postman’ who accompanies Sam and ‘Leroy’ to their hotel for a night of fun and laughs. All seems well for ‘Leroy’ until the real Leroy (Sherman Augustus), the first hitman, returns and murders Winston’s post-office boyfriend. Forced to turn cold again, Winston, ‘Leroy’, and Sam head to nearest plane to track down Jerry.
Meanwhile Jerry’s partner has flown in and attempts to ‘off’ Jerry behind his back. Jerry, simply wanting to return home with the gun and tired of everyone’s drama, finds more trouble after his partner switches his passport and prevents him from leaving Mexico. His return to the hotel results in a reunion with Sam and Jerry tries to tell Sam about the pistol, with another dramatic tale of its origins. (This retelling of the pistol’s origins becomes a primary comic device in the film). Of course an anti-climatic humorous climax brings all of Margolese’s men, Jerry and Sam, and the Mexican ‘robbers’ together to hear the final version of the pistol’s origins, whereby Sam is forced to shoot one of Margolese’s twisted employers which renders what the Mexicans call “a miracle” as a wedding band drops from the barrel after it is fired. Following the Mexicans, Jerry and Sam head to Margolese’s quarters to return the gun to its rightful owner, not until, of course, they correct the little problem with the Winston/Leroy snafu first…
“The Mexican” is an off-beat comedy that is as hilarious as it is delightful. Sharp dialogue allows pun after pun to evoke uproarious laughter from the audience. Brad Pitt nails his role as the klutzy, offbeat, pathetic Jerry Welbach who can ‘do no right’. Julia Roberts is equally accomplished in her role as the high-strung, annoying yet endearing Sam, and James Gandolfini almost makes you want to befriend a hitman he’s so loveable. This film relies on ‘repetition of the uncanny’ and simple puns to invoke humor, which appear to be successful enough. From the dry one-liners, to the witty euphemisms, to the hilarious contrast of characters, “The Mexican” is a comedy that merges episodic and saga elements into a unique tail about a clumsy man’s earnest attempts to set things straight, which of course, only further problematizes his latest snafu.
Although some critics have found the film to “fall flat” around mid-way, the film arguably remains inflated in its dialogue and the chemistry between its characters. The strong point of the film is the exaggerated effect of caricature: characters whose flaws are undeniably pronounced and exaggerated which allows audiences to laugh at and condescend their plights. Nevertheless some have found the film wanting a cameo, or a secondary plot line to ‘spice things up a bit’ about midway. That said, most critics also agree that the beginning of the film sets up a strong suit of elements that smack of a successful comedy. Upon conclusion of the film however, opinions vary greatly and the arbitrary success of “The Mexican” as a comedy is wholly personal.
However, the film does pack a punch with its A-list cast, yet it is also debatable whether or not Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts are better apart than together. Arguably their shared scenes are some of the most hilarious, again based on effects of caricature and dramatization. None the less, Brad Pitt’s likable “Murphy’s Law” Jerry is as entertaining as Julia’s slightly neurotic interpretation of Sam, together or no. Together both are funny and light-heartedly entertaining, apart both are comically ridiculous. Of course James Gandolfini delivers and often carries much of the center part of the film with his performance as a gay hitman: his performance is witty, original, and comically ironic.
Altogether the film works best around the undermining of ironies. Though it is debatable whether or not the film drags at the end, arguably there is enough there to keep it going until the final scene with Gene Hackman, whose reputation throughout the film has done the work of characterization. “The Mexican” is light-hearted fun with funny one-liners and delightful conundrums running throughout. It isn’t heavy laden with serious content, or immersed in ideologies, etc., but it does offer a good laugh or two at the sad truth about some peoples ‘bad-luck’ lives.
Julia Roberts plays Samantha Barzel, Jerry’s high-strung, overly dramatic girlfriend who finds herself in quite a pickle after she is hijacked along her trip to Vegas: of course it’s Jerry’s fault, as always...
Brad Pitt plays Jerry Welbach, former con-man who is trying to settle down and live his life with his girlfriend, Sam, but needs to go to Mexico for one last job: of course his trip goes anything but as planned.
James Gandolfini plays Winston Baldry, AKA ‘Leroy’, the big-burly teddy bear of a hitman who is sent to hold Sam ransom until Jerry completes his job in Mexico.
Sherman Augustus plays Leroy the Hitman, the true Leroy who works for Jerry’s boss Margolese, and whose attempts to take Sam hostage go haywire when Winston interferes.
Gene Hackman plays Margolose, former conman who was sent to prison after Jerry hits his car and exposes a body in the trunk. To make up for sending him to prison, Margolese has Jerry work off his time, which of course includes one last trip to Mexico…