The Reel Deal with Luke Baynes: The Mexican

In The Mexican, Brad Pitt plays Jerry, a small-time crook ordered to track down an ancient Mexican pistol as penance for a botched job. What sounds like a simple task is made difficult by two unforeseen variables:One: the pistol is cursed; people die when it’s around. Two: Jerry has a girlfriend named Samantha (Julia Roberts), a spry and mousy free spirit who likes her men to stay close to the home front.That there is very little chemistry between Pitt and Roberts scarcely matters. They get the break-up portion of their relationship out of the way early, leaving a maximum amount of time for parallel storytelling.When Jerry arrives in Mexico, he discovers the people behaving like all good Mexicans should, by taking tequila shots and firing gunshots into the night air. He locates the specific pistol within minutes, but like most movies set abroad, things can only get worse for the American protagonist. The pistol is soon stolen, along with his rental car and his fleeting self-respect.Meanwhile, Samantha is on her way to Las Vegas to assert her independence and maybe get a job as a waitress. En route she gets kidnapped by Leroy (James Gandolfini), a competing interest in the quest for the pistol.He turns out to be a homosexual with a sensitive side that belies his otherwise cold-blooded profession. What she learns from him, other than a few tips in the art of relationships, is that if a guy can shoot somebody and cry in the next scene, then maybe the human race and old Jerry aren’t so bad after all.Roberts, looking her age for the first time, is also showing signs that her girl-next-door shtick is finally running dry. She whines and mopes around the screen, and only once lets her trademark cackle do its healing work.Pitt fares a little better as the perpetual sap and manages to seem appropriately dumb, even while being forced to toss around such high-brow words as “facilitate” and “construe.”There’s not much to say about director Gore Verbinski, the man behind the kiddie flick Mouse Hunt. How a film with that title was not a career maker is beyond me.When he and screenwriter J.H. Wyman find a piece of humor that works, they latch onto it like the mangy dog that constantly wanders into scenes with a deflated football in his mouth. The simple fact that an American would not want to drive a Chrysler in Mexico is enough to warrant several variations on a theme.As one would expect from a comedy about a gun, what began as a textbook date movie will eventually turn dark, with several dead bodies and awkward silences to show for it.The pistol, besides holding eponymous honors, will also serve as the film’s convenient deus ex machina, for sooner or later, Jerry, Samantha, the bad guys, and the gun will all be in the same scene together, and there’s your conclusion.Lacking the romance of a good love story and the traditional exotic appeal of a foreign locale, The Mexican is a comedy that has about as much to do with our Southern neighbors as it does with making people laugh. Translation: nada.