A great team

“Gee, Julia, isn’t it awful being so damned beautiful?”

“Gee, Julia, isn’t it awful being so damned beautiful?”

Rated 4.0

The Mexican

A few years back, Hollywood pairing up a couple of megastars like Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts would’ve involved a plot something like: Girl leaves book in park, boy finds it, boy returns it, their dogs like each other, they fall in love, Celine Dion songs ensue, yours truly vomits.

Thankfully, Roberts and company don’t opt for mainstream fare with The Mexican, a twisted road-trip movie giving Roberts a nice chance to display an aptitude for rage, and Pitt the chance to further display his comic talents.

The two play a struggling couple enduring constant separations, because Pitt’s character is a low-rate thug trying to pay off a debt. While the two spend little actual time together on screen, the moments they do share indisputably rock. Here’s to hoping Pitt is Robert’s beau of choice in future films, and Richard Gere is put out to pasture with Wilford Brimley.

The two basically star in their own separate films in The Mexican, and that is not a bad thing, because both of those films are very good. Pitt, forced to take a trip to Mexico to retrieve a relic pistol (the title’s namesake), is given a steady stream of solo comic bits, every one of them working, because Pitt is a tremendously natural physical comedian. He’s one of those actors who simply doesn’t give off a sense he’s working from a script. His part feels completely spontaneous and improvised, his character like his own Floyd from True Romance without the Honey Bear bong.

Roberts spends most of her time in a subplot involving The Sopranos‘ James Gandolfini as her kidnapper. That story is sweet, with the two becoming friends and Gandolfini’s lifetime criminal character showing a softer side. Roberts, on a hot streak and getting better with each film, especially got to me during her abduction, looking as scared as anybody I’ve seen in similar circumstances at the movies. Her aforementioned rage is a beautiful thing during her verbal sparring with Pitt, and especially good in the couple’s first heated exchange. I truly hope that the days of the vapid Roberts romances are past her, because she’s showing some major edge nowadays.

The Mexican is fun, but it’s not solely the result of great acting. Director Gore Verbinski knows his way around an action scene and is equally talented at capturing hilarious moments. Very funny sequences include the unfortunate results of partygoers firing their pistolas into the air, a great moment where Pitt is forced to shoot and wound an adversary and Pitt’s interactions with a stubborn mule and a football-toting dog. Dog humor can be so gimmicky, but here it is handled to goofy perfection.

While much of the film’s humor is of the broad slapstick nature, there are some terrific dry moments. I loved that the townspeople depicted in various flashbacks involving the story of the antique pistol look bored out of their minds. Touches like these are completely unexpected, an aspect of the film that puts it well ahead of standard action flicks.

The humor is balanced with heavy-duty darkness and some violence, and the serious turns in the plot are handled expertly by all involved. Some bad things happen to characters we like, but none of it feels gratuitous. A great actor who is no stranger to great film cameos appears in the movie’s closing minutes, and you will receive no hints as to who it is.

Pitt and Roberts will be starring in director Stephen Soderbergh’s remake of Ocean’s Eleven. No news on how much their parts will interact. Here’s to more projects involving these two in the future, and may they be as original and warped as The Mexican.