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Jerry (Brad Pitt) just isn’t cut out for a life of crime. He knows it, his girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts) knows it, and even his bosses know it. But he’s been called on the carpet to do one last job without screwing up... or he won’t escape “the life” with his life. It’s very simple, really: all he has to do is go to Mexico and collect a famous antique pistol called “The Mexican.” But as can be imagined, things most certainly do not go according to plan...

Mexican, The
Movie
The Mexican is one of those rare movies that successfully blends genres, mixing together comedy, dark-tinged drama, action, and romance. The trick is in balancing all these different elements, and director Gore Verbinski handles it extremely well, never letting any one element get out of balance with the others. The drama is strong enough to make sure that the viewers feel a strong connection with the characters as real people, while never getting quite as dark as Suicide Kings or Pulp Fiction; there’s always something going on, but it doesn’t slip into dull car-chase-style action-for-its-own-sake, either; and the comedy, always the trickiest part to handle, remains the strongest note in the blend while never turning into slapstick. The end result is an unexpectedly charming, funny, and original film.

What’s special about the movie is its great script, its sense of humor, and the excellent direction; it’s strong enough as a film that it doesn’t have to rely on the star power in the cast to carry the movie. That said, the strong cast is one more high-quality element in the mix, and adds considerably to the overall effect. Brad Pitt is in his element as the hapless Jerry, and Julia Roberts brings her usual verve to the character of Samantha. The two of them don’t quite click as a couple, as is surprisingly often the case with casting two big-name actors as romantic leads, but they play the individual characters well enough that it’s easy to forgive this slight flaw. James Gandolfini (from The Sopranos) is fantastic as the most important of the secondary characters, the hitman; it’s a complex role that in many ways is pivotal to the film’s effect, and Gandolfini pulls it off in great style. All in all, the characters are handled with dignity, but also with a light touch: we see the frailties of the characters and laugh at what happens, but at the same time the characters are very real and their pain and drama is heartfelt.

The Mexican also displays some imaginative cinematography. For instance, a shaky hand-cranked camera is used for a series of “historical flashbacks” that add a great deal of charm to the film along with developing the plot.

What could have made it better? I think that plot-wise, some of the scenes at the mob’s home base could have been handled better; the motivation behind some of the plot twists later in the movie is a little unclear. But this is a very mild quibble; the plot of The Mexican as a whole hangs together very well indeed.

Mexican, The
Video
The Mexican is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, in an overall satisfactory transfer. Noise and print flaws are nowhere to be seen, and I was pleased to note that there doesn’t appear to be any edge enhancement, either. On the other hand, the colors seemed a bit on the muddy side at times, and the image could have been a little sharper. It’s a good transfer that could have used a little “boost” to become excellent.

Audio
The Mexican is an excellent example of the way that great sound can be as amazing as a great transfer. To begin with, the soundtrack is simply outstanding. Some of the soundtrack selections are existing songs, like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,” while others, like the recurring Mexican theme songs, were created specifically for the film. In both cases, the music is integrated seamlessly into the film in such a way that the songs help to set the mood, develop the humor, and even contribute to the story. And, I might add, they’re highly memorable. Expect to have at least one or two stuck in your head for a while after you finish watching the film.

The sound quality is exceptional as well. The Mexican showcases a DTS track, which is clear and beautiful, with very good use of surround effects throughout the film. Dialogue is clean and crisp, and while the music has a strong presence in many scenes, it is always very well balanced with the dialogue, never drowning it out. The DVD includes a high-quality Dolby 5.1 track and a Dolby 2.0 stereo track as well.

A word to the wise: to get the DTS track, you have to select it from the “audio” options in the menu, as the disc defaults to Dolby 5.1.

Extras
As the main special feature, we have director Gore Verbinski’s audio commentary track for the film. Along with the commentary, the other major special feature is a generous selection of deleted scenes, which are provided with optional commentary from Verbinski. I found the deleted scenes to be quite interesting to watch, and I was pleased to see that they are presented in anamorphic widescreen.

There’s also a 15-minute “making-of” documentary which turns out to be fairly pointless; it’s just a promotional featurette, heavily laden with clips from the movie and “interviews” in which the actors talk about their characters. Rounding out the extras are the trailers for the film, cast biographies, and production notes.

The menus are attractively themed to the film while also being easy to navigate.

Mexican, The
Overall
Although the comparison may seem odd, The Mexican has a great deal in common with what’s probably my favorite comedy: The Big Lebowski. Like that film, it’s an extremely funny movie, but not because the story is being played for laughs: the humor comes naturally from the situation, the characters, the dialogue, and even the way the scenes are handled. Because of this, The Mexican is an extremely re-watchable movie: it will be as funny, or funnier, on subsequent viewings as on the first. As a DVD, it’s well worth adding to your collection, with a good transfer, enjoyable extras, and superb sound.


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