"The Mexican" is a romantic comedy/drama with a touch of mystery and some action movie bits thrown in. Although it doesn't always mix these elements perfectly, there's enough great moments throughout the movie that the 124 minutes often flew by, even though I was often pondering just where it was headed.
Brad Pitt stars as Jerry Walbach, a small-time criminal who was supposed to have just done his last job, but finds himself on yet another after screwing up the previous one. He's supposed to go to Mexico to retrieve an antique gun called the Mexican and bring it to its owner. I don't think I'll be giving anything away by saying that things don't go exactly as planned. His girlfriend Sam(Julia Roberts) isn't pleased by his continuing crime career and throws him out - she heads on her way to Las Vegas.
Meanwhile, Jerry gets the gun - and loses it, and gets it again (and loses it again). Samantha is kidnapped on her journey towards Vegas, first by an unknown criminal and then saved (for use of a better word) by yet another criminal who was also seeking her out, played by James Gandolfini of the "Sopranos". He thinks that if he has Samantha, Jerry will hand over the gun to get her back. She protests that she has nothing to do with him and wants nothing to do with him, but that gets her nowhere. After a bit though, the two find out more about one another and take a friendly liking and understanding towards one another. Although Pitt's performance is excellent, it's Gandolfini's scenes with Roberts that are more interesting than when she's with Pitt.
Director Gore Verbinski doesn't have a great deal of previous experience - his first feature film was 1997's "Mousehunt", where he followed Nathan Lane trying to get rid of a computer-generated mouse. Here, he's able to keep things moving fairly well and keep as many as a few different stories going well at the same time without much awkwardness. There are some moments though where it too sharply goes from genre to genre - skipping rather quickly from comedy to drama at times. There's a bit of slowness towards the last 30 minutes as well, as the picture begins to go on a little too long. Also, the film boasts a fine screenplay by JH Whyman to work with and great cinematography by Dariusz Wolski, who also worked on "Dark City" and "Crimson Tide".
All three of the lead performances are entertaining as Roberts and Gandolfini work well together, and Pitt continues to impress after several great recent performances. Pitt has several sharp moments of comedy, enjoyably making the character a bit goofy - but not making him too stupid to be believed. "The Mexican" is one of those films that's entertaining and watchable, but could have used a few little fixes to tighten it up a bit. Although flawed, it's edgy, sharp and often entertaining enough that it succeeds overall.
VIDEO: It's been a little while since I've had the pleasure of reviewing a Dreamworks release. Although the studio usually doesn't have that many offerings in the pipeline, it's been three months since their last release, "The Legend Of Bagger Vance", which was an excellent offering in regards to both audio and video quality. As for "The Mexican" though, the studio really has done what could be called their best work to date. When I saw the picture in late March, the print that I viewed in the theater looked clean and free of marks, but slightly washed out in tone. The DVD offers a richer, bolder image overall, but also has numerous other positive qualities. Sharpness and detail throughout are simply terrific; the picture looks impressively crisp and "film-like".
The complete lack of flaws really makes for an exceptional viewing experience, though. A completely pristine print, free of marks, scratches or even the smallest speckle combined with the complete absence of pixelation, edge enhancement or any color problems is really, really pleasing to see - perfection (or at least something very close to it) on a DVD presentation can be obtained and "The Mexican" is proof.
The film's color presentation also is excellent. Although the film has a subdued, rather desaturated color palette, some brighter colors occasionally sneak in. Where the film appeared slightly washed out in the theater, the film's look appeared more enjoyable and slightly richer here. I've noticed in recent months that DVD presentations have been at least starting to get closer and closer to obtaining the kind of depth and overall quality of theatrical presentations (although it certainly doesn't help them that some chains don't seem to care as much about presentation quality anymore), but "The Mexican" is a DVD offering that, in my opinion, surpasses the theatrical presentation.
SOUND: "The Mexican" is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 audio. Although neither will put systems to the test, I thought the movie presented an engaging audio mix and fine audio quality. The film's wonderful score and music is the element that benefited most from the presentation - I don't know who is the group responsible for the tune that plays as Pitt's character first steps off the plane into Mexico, but I love it and it sounds fantastic on this DVD presentation. Surrounds kick in nicely on occasion, whether it be for the film's score or for the occasional sound effect, such as the early scene when Pitt's character winds up at a celebration in a small town where the inhabitants are shooting off fireworks (and other things) into the air.
Audio quality seemed perfectly fine as the music, effects and dialogue all came through clearly and no piece was overshadowed by another one. Dialogue sounded especially clean and natural. There's little in the way of bass, but there's no real need for it, either. Personally, I thought the audio presentation was fine for the material, with a few very nicely done active moments, but several stretches that are definitely more subtle. The differences between the Dolby Digital and DTS presentations are minimal at best and often, simply non-existent.
MENUS:: A wonderfully done animated main menu opens the disc, revolving around the stoplight that plays a "character" in the movie.
Commentary: This is a commentary from director Gore Verbinski, who is joined by writer J.H. Wyman and editor Craig Wood. None of the three are particularly energetic speakers and, as such, the entire track is pretty low-key with the exception of a few moments where a comment sets them all off into talking about a specific topic. The majority of the commentary discusses production issues and working with the actors, but there's several passages that are rather slow going with either basic information or silence. Although there weren't that many passages of silence throughout this track, I was suprised that with three people included that there were as many as there were. It certainly wasn't a bad commentary, but I felt like, even though I wasn't on the set, that there must have been some more engaging stories to tell from the making of a movie like "The Mexican".
Deleted Scenes: 9 deleted scenes are presented; a few of them wrap up or fill out pieces of the story nicely, but a couple of them really didn't push the plot along and were rightly cut. Optional commentary is also included and, unlike the actual feature itself, the disc allows switching from the scene sound to the commentary with the remote.
Also: 15 minute promotional featurette with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, teaser trailer & theatrical trailer (Dolby Digital 5.1), cast/crew bios, production notes.
Final Thoughts: Although I don't think "The Mexican" will wind up on my top 10 for the year once 2001 is over, I think it'll at least end up in the honorable mentions catagory. Despite its faults, it does have a great cast who turns in fine performances. Dreamworks has also provided a splendid DVD edition, with superb audio/video quality and a few decent extras. Recommended.