THE MEXICAN 

The Mexican mixes guns and love

The coupling of Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt in the romantic comedy The Mexican is right on the money -- that is, bags and bags of money that this casting decision will most certainly bring in. The film's coupling of cutesy and killing, however, is less of a sure thing. At the same time, being off- kilter is probably its best asset, a definite detour from the unbearable mush of this film's ilk.
But boy is The Mexican wobbly, as wobbly as Roberts trying to high-tail it in a series of wedge sandals her character is made to wear throughout the film. And it begins without promise in Roberts and Pitt's first full-fledge scene together as they act entirely with their hands. Sam (Roberts) and Jerry (Pitt) are fighting. Sam wants to go to Vegas; Jerry has one last assignment for a mob boss. Sam screams that Jerry promised to go to Vegas (hands up). Jerry pleads for reason (arms outstretched) that if he doesn't go to Mexico and fetch a certain pistol he'll end up dead. More limbs fly and they part ways: Sam to Vegas, Jerry to Mexico.

Separated, both Roberts and Pitt get to work their not- altogether-different shticks. Sam is a mess of curls and a mess of ideas that has her highlighting self-help books searching for the answer to Jerry, while she doesn't have a clue about herself. Jerry, on the other hand, knows where he stands, but he keeps tripping alot. The world, it seems, is his banana peel, filled with fender-benders, disobedient animals, and errant bullets. Both Jerry and Sam are adorable.

What happens to them isn't so sweet. As Jerry makes his way to the pistol, Sam is followed into an outlet-mall bathroom (FYI, bathrooms figure heavily in this film) by a man with a gun. This man, in turn, is followed by a man with a gun. Man #2 shoots Man #1 and takes Sam as collateral to get to Jerry. Meanwhile, Jerry retrieves the pistol, loses the pistol, gets it again, gets thrown into jail, rides a donkey, etc.

As romantic comedies go, the comedy in The Mexican is light, the romance even lighter. Regarding the latter, Roberts and Pitt spend the bulk of the film apart. When together, their chemistry abounds with chumminess but lacks a true spark.

The comedy is chiefly trite and sometimes offensive. A bit that runs throughout the film mocks the overtherapized couple. In that first fight mentioned above, Sam and Jerry throw out phrases like "blame- shifting." The gag continues as Leroy (James Gandolfini), Sam's kidnapper, analyzes her and she him. Even south of the border, Jerry and coworker search deep for the meanings of their actions. The joke is that even tough guys have feelings, or maybe it's just an extended tribute to The Sopranos.

As Sam and Leroy grow closer, the light-hearted taking-it-as-it- comes tone gets seriously strained. Before you can say Stockholm Syndrome, Sam is resting her head on Leroy's shoulder, wheedling out of him that he's gay (a gay hitman, what a hoot!) and encouraging him to love again. Sure, he's a cold-blooded killer, but besides that he's not so bad. It's around this time of Sam and Leroy's bonding that a bit about a rape is thrown in for comic effect, proving that rape is never something to joke about.

And that's about it for The Mexican -- gentle laughs mixed in with brutal situations with a few missteps here and there. As it happens, the catchphrase of this film is the question, "When is enough enough?" It refers to the screwed-up relationship of Jerry and Sam. But in terms of this movie and the audience, The Mexican is just that -- enough.

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