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DreamWorks presents

The Mexican (2001)

"If everything turns out fine and Jerry comes through without all this getting funky I don't think that will happen. If he brings me the pistol, I give you to him. I'm just here to regulate funkiness"- Leroy (James Gandolfini), to Samantha when she asks if he is going to kill her

Stars: Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts
Other Stars: James Gandolfini
Director: Gore Verbinski

MPAA Rating: R for violence and language
Run Time: 02h:03m:14s
Release Date: 2001-08-07
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Seeing as many films as I do, it is becoming an increasingly frustrating problem that the sheer thrill of surprise is taken away before I buy my ticket. It often seems that the pictures best moment can be spoiled in reviews, trailers or in some cases the theatrical poster. With Dreamworks' The Mexican I had the privilege of walking into the theater cold, with no knowledge of the film or its plot with the hopes of being surprised. What a wonderful surprise it was, the film is a offbeat, quirky and often humorous romance/action film that would be lost among other pictures if it didn't happen to star both Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt.

Jerry Welbach (Pitt) is having a bad week. His latest job, which is also his last, has him in search of an antique pistol in Mexico for his jailed boss. Jerry is soon on a plane to Mexico where things fail to go the way they are planned. Soon, the pistol, his rental car, and his passport are missing and Jerry is stranded. At the same time, his high-strung girlfriend, Samantha (Roberts), is threatening a break up if Jerry doesn't quit his line of work and accompany her to Las Vegas. It isn't long before Samantha is on her way to Las Vegas when a hit man named Leroy (Gandolfini) kidnaps her as insurance for Jerry returning the pistol and not selling it to outside buyers. Ultimately the kidnapper and his victim become more than adversaries—friends whose conversations have a wide range of topics.

What is most impressive about director Gore Verbinski's The Mexican is how he sets aside the crime/action element of the film, more than once, to focus on the love story between the two leads. At times this can be a hard thing to pull off with aplomb, yet Verbinski (Mousehunt) and screenwriter J.H. Wyman are able to create interesting characters among all of the double-crosses and violence. And it is a credit to Wyman's screenplay as it kicks dust in the face of convention on more than one occasion. In what other film would the male protagonist make an excuse for a botched errand for the mob by simply claiming that, "When you told me to pick up the thing at the thing, well, Samantha, she wanted the car to pick up some things."? In the end The Mexican creates a nice romance where the participants fight at the start, but during the course of the film, fall back in love, even when they are in different countries.

If Wyman and Verbinski falter it is that the film is too long by nearly twenty minutes. That is not to say that the closing scenes aren't necessary, but plot threads are neatly tied up by a speech from an unbilled actor that could just as well have been done earlier in the film. In many ways it is as if Verbinski wants everything to look nice once the film is over and the "happily ever after" finale just doesn't seem in tune with the rest of the film.

Upon the release of The Mexican in March of 2001, many critics felt the need to blast the picture for its lack of scenes featuring both of the hot stars. In my opinion, it works for the better because of the separation of the leads. For a film with two of the biggest stars in Hollywood, it is nice to see supporting characters take command of scenes instead of sitting back and watching things unfold without them.

As for Pitt and Roberts, it should come as no surprise that the two have terrific chemistry and that their scenes together work unbelievably well. In their scenes apart the two also do well, with Pitt doing the loopy idiot routine a bit too well. Brad Pitt has always been an underrated actor, and here he proves that he can do comedy just as well as anything else and that he is one of the best actors working today. Roberts is her typical self in her role as Samantha, a woman whose love life is more important than anyone else's problems. It is a nice performance by Roberts, yet maybe a bit too typical of the work she has done recently. The pictures best performance by far comes from James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano) as the overly sensitive hitman Leroy. To say that the movie works because of his performance is an understatement. It is no surprise that the moments with he and Roberts exhibit a sort of energy lacking in her scenes with Pitt. Gandolfini has always been a terrific actor, and his performance in here shows why. It will be a shame if his work here is forgotten when awards season comes around.

Overall, The Mexican works extremely well. With its multiple genres (road picture, romantic comedy, thriller, dark comedy) thrown into the mix, it features wonderful performances and direction. Seen as a disappointment at the box office considering the star power involved when it was released in March, there is no denying that The Mexican is an underrated gem.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: In the interest of being direct and to the point I will just say this: The Mexican looks absolutely fantastic. Presented in anamorphic widescreen with its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this DVD transfer looks better than the print I saw in theaters. With a wide palette of colors including the desaturated browns and tans of Mexico to the bright neon of the Las Vegas strip, this transfer recreates the colors wonderfully with no saturation or bleeding. Sharpness and detail are each terrific giving the print an amazingly film like look with no traces of edge enhancement or pixelation. This is quite possibly one of the best transfers I have ever seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: As is the case with most Dreamworks releases, The Mexican sports both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS surround mixes, and for the most part the results are satisfying. With each mix dialogue is clear with nice depth and fidelity, and Alan Silvestri's score comes off sounding beautifully in the front speakers. The .1 LFE mix is quiet for most of the film with only a few instances where it is felt. Surround use is ample in the film with the score and ambient effects in the rear channels. One scene where the surround speakers come alive is in chapter 4, which recreates the sound of bullets falling from the sky nicely. Overall this isn't a showy track, yet it gets the job done.

As for differences between the two surround mixes, I personally couldn't hear any. If the DTS track gets higher points it is because Sivestri's score sounds cleaner and much more full. A Dolby 2-channel track is also available in English.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
8 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Gore Verbinski, writer J.H. Wyman, and editor Craig Wood
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Deleted scenes offer optional commentary by director Gore Verbinski
Extras Review: The Mexican doesn't come labeled as a special edition, yet there are enough extra features to whet any appetite. Most notable is a screen-specific audio commentary by director Gore Verbinski, editor Craig Wood, and writer J. H. Wyman. While the track fails to offer up much in the way of exciting information the three do cover some interesting topics. Sadly, though, the track becomes mundane with each scene provoking an "Oh, I like this scene" reaction from one of the three. Ultimately the track fails to be as interesting as it could have been.

There is a fifteen-minute featurette ingeniously titled The Making of The Mexican. Featuring interviews with the cast and crew, this is yet another extended trailer posing as an EPK. With the talent in the film, something more in depth would have been nice. The real meat of the disc lies in the eight deleted scenes presented wonderful quality with optional commentary by director Gore Verbinski. Most were rightfully cut from the film, although I did like the description on the menu of each scene and a still from the scene so the viewer knew who was in it.

Production notes, the theatrical and teaser trailer as well as cast and crew information round out the extras.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

This film may not be for everyone, yet you will be hard pressed to find a better mainstream film that is this offbeat. I loved it, and am more than pleased with the presentation of this DVD from Dreamworks. With a wonderful video transfer and above average audio mix in both DTS and Dolby Digital and some informative extra features, The Mexican is most definitely recommended.

Kevin Clemons 2001-08-06