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:: The Mexican

How could it not be a blockbuster? The Mexican, the new film by Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt) stars Queen of Hollywood, best actress academy award winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolias) and reigning man of the moment, Brad Pitt (Fight Club, Twelve Monkeys, Legends of the Fall) together in not just a romantic comedy, but a romantic comedy with guns.

Brad Pit as Jerry

When Jerry (Brad Pitt) accidentally crashes into mob boss Arnold Margolese and consequently has him arrested when a person is discovered tied up in his boot, Jerry's life gets put on hold, for five years. He is enlisted by Margolese's mercenaries to serve his own sentence, doing favours for the gang until Margolese gets out of jail. With one week left to go of his sentence and his last job, or so he thought, under his belt, Jerry and his girlfriend Sam (Julia Roberts) are set to take off to Las Vegas and start a new life together. That is before Jerry is summoned before Bernie Nayman (Bob Balaban) Margolese's second in command for one final favour .The crux of the problem is that Jerry, despite his good intentions isn't entirely reliable at the best of times and the favour involves flying to Mexico, retrieving Beck (David Krumholtz) Margolese's grandson and an invaluable hand crafted gun deeply embedded in Mexican folklore. To top off the situation Sam has given Jerry an ultimatum, Las Vegas with her, or Mexico and never see her again.

Jerry, ever the realist, notes that if he doesn't go to Mexico he will be killed and therefore not going to Las Vegas with anyone, so heads off and after a series of mishaps finds himself alone, an American in Mexico without a car or any money, a missing gun and a dead grandson. In the meantime Sam, on her way to Las Vegas alone, is taken hostage by Leroy (James Gandolfini), a trained thug as collateral to ensure Jerry brings the gun back safely. Although Jerry manages to get the gun back in his possession on several occasions, he never seems to be able to hang on to it for long enough to get it back across the border, so he enlists the help of fellow bagman Ted (J K Simmons). As Jerry and Ted bumble their way in and out of trouble and discover more about the gun's legendary curse, Sam and Leroy get along famously, well except for some obvious trust issues. They gossip about relationships in diners, live it up with cocktails and feather boas in Vegas and generally have a damn good time, that is until a well dressed black man (Sherman Augustus) also interested in the pistol, starts following them around and killing their friends. The film from here on in cuts between Jerry and Sam's adventures as they struggle, to get the gun back and end their five year sentence, realise that their relationship is not worth giving up on just yet and to stay alive in the meantime.

Julia Roberts as Sam

The film is visually stimulating as the parallel stories, miniature road movies in their own right, travel though the heady lights and colour of Las Vegas and the natural beauty and earthy tones of Real de Catorce a small town in San Luis Potosi in the central north of Mexico. An amazing supporting cast backs the leading roles. James Gandolfini is completely believable as Leroy, a trained killer who could be a relationship counsellor in his spare time, even if he is won over a bit too quickly by the adorable Sam. Although not a big departure from his role in the Sopranos, Leroy does have a few skeletons in his closet that allow Gandolfini to give his loveable gangster character another dimension entirely. Bob Balaban plays Bernie Nayman perfectly, the dead pan, cold blooded second in command who dishes out orders with an icy cold stare that lets you know, they are not to be taken lightly.

Despite the film having some nice moments, the Mexican leaves you wanting something more. If you are going to put Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts in a movie together then you want to see them on screen together for more than 10 or so minutes. This frustration is compounded by the fact that for the 10 or so minutes they are on screen together, their chemistry just doesn't quite gel. Although Brad Pitt is great as the likeable, bumbling and almost dorky Jerry, at times you do get a sense that Pitt is having to dork himself up and dumb himself down, leaving many of the comedic moments of the film lacking that laugh out loud factor that writer J H Wyman intended. Julia Roberts is also not really believable as Samantha Barzel. With one sulky look out of those big brown eyes and a flash of that “award winning” smile, you are immediately aware that you are watching Julia Roberts, playing a character called Samantha Barzel. The flashback sequences, establishing the legendary curse of the antique pistol, although beautifully shot, don't really fit with the rest of the film. You are left not really caring what happens to the gun and therefore the film climaxes with the reunion of Sam and Jerry, twenty minutes before the film actually ends.

Overall the Mexican is a very watchable film with some laughs, some action and some very pretty faces but leaves you with the impression of watching two one man shows travelling down two different roads that never quite meet up.

Screening on general release.