"The Mexican" plays like an Elmore Leonard novel, complete with mob politics, dim-witted henchmen, mistaken identity, and - of course - double-, triple- and quadruple-cross. Jerry Welbach (Brad Pitt), a bagman for the mob, is offered an ultimatum: go to Mexico and recover a priceless antique pistol named the Mexican for his boss, the currently-incarcerated Arnold Margolese (Gene Hackman), or try swimming with his legs in a concrete block. Needless to say, he picks the former option, and is soon on a flight to Mexico...a decision which annoys his girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts) no end, especially since Jerry promised her that he would get out of the life for good.
Once Jerry hits Mexico, however, it quickly becomes obvious that what was supposed to be a simple pickup isn't really all that cut-and-dried. No sooner has Jerry picked up the pistol (and a dead body...don't ask!) than it's stolen from him by a gang of locals. As Jerry chases it through the backroads of Mexico, Margolese decides to take out a little insurance, by having Leroy (James Gandolfini) kidnap Samantha to ensure that Jerry behaves himself. Three different accounts of the legend behind the Mexican add an extra dimension to the chaos already swirling around Jerry, and it's up to him to keep his head, get the gun and the girl...and make sure that he's still breathing at the end of it all.
A well-directed, well-written comic caper, "The Mexican" is one of the funniest movies to hit theatres this year. Director Gore Verbinski displays a light touch with the camera, using unexpected angles and objects to link different situations and characters together. A high-powered cast, including Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, Gene Hackman and James Gandolfini, turn in strong performances, and the chemistry between Roberts the hostage and Gandolfini the sensitively-gay hitman is palpable. All the cast members also display good comedic timing, and Pitt in particular is very, very funny as the hapless Jerry Welbach.
With its wildly-eccentric characters, its madly-twisting storyline, its contrasting environments and perfectly-arranged musical score, "The Mexican" is sure to be one of the year's biggest hits. Take my advice, and catch up with it soonest!This article was first published on 13 Apr 2001.