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The Mexican

review by Zach B.

Rated R

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 123 minutes

Starring Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini

Written by J.H. Wyman

Directed by Gore Verbinski

Retail Price: $26.95

Features: Audio Commentary with Director Gore Verbinski, Writer J.H. Wyman and Editor Craig Wood, Eight Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, The Making-Of The Mexican featurette, Cast Bios and Filmographies, Filmmakers Bios and Filmographies, Production Notes, Theatrical Teaser, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, Chapter Search (26 Chapters)

Released: August 7th, 2001

A film that originally was supposed to star unknowns, it's amazing how things can change when two giant stars such as Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt come aboard. I heard the film was put in limbo for a bit, but once the two came on board things started to shape up. It's also been said that the two big stars worked for smaller salaries then usual to appear in the film. With a budget of about 38 million dollars, the film earned back nearly seventy million at the box office when it opened during March 2001. So how does "The Mexican" measure up? Let's see...

The film follows Jerry Welbach (Brad Pitt), a man who has to go to Mexico to complete one last job for his boss before starting a whole new life. He has to pick up a legendary pistol called "The Mexican", that happens to have a large back story behind it. With the gun, though, many believe there is a curse on it. While Jerry doesn't look forward to retrieving the gun, he is also facing problems with his long-time girlfriend Samantha (Julia Roberts). Things are rocky between them and they seem to go their separate ways... so it seems. They are brought back together when Jerry goes to Mexico, gets the gun and then a lot of stuff happens that is pure screwball. Matters become worse when Samantha is taken hostage by the hitman Leroy (James Gandolfini) in order to ensure that the gun is returned. So what happens? Just what happens to everything?

There's a lot to like about "The Mexican", but I'll start with the acting. Of course, you can't ask for much more then such acting heavyweights like Julia Roberts, James Gandolfini and Brad Pitt. I'm not sure how good unknowns would be in these roles. Sure, unknowns come out of the blue and capture the hearts of many audiences and minds of critics, but I don't know, it just seems so natural with the actors featured in the film. While there has been some controversy that Pitt and Roberts don't appear in the film together often, which is true, it's just how the story goes. People were disappointed with this, especially since the fine actors and stars they are, but when they do appear, there is some great chemistry between them and you really do feel like they're a real couple. While they're on their own, they do hold their own. They do great jobs with their respective performances and really make you feel that these characters are real. They just fit the personas so well. James Gandolfini, who you may be familiar with from a certain popular TV show, does an excellent job here. While so many maybe familiar with him as a certain character, Gandolfini has been a character actor in films before that and here he shows off more of his fine acting skills. I really enjoyed him in his role as Leroy and while people may always remember him as a certain character, his presence extends far beyond the small screen. There's also another big actor who appears toward the end, I won't mention him, but his small role is quite good.

The script from J.H. Wyman is pretty nice as he delivers an interesting premise disguised as a romantic comedy of sorts. He develops his characters well and keeps things going with a lot of interesting developments, situations and a load of scenarios that not only challenge the characters in a single "oh we know way", but in a few other ways as well as far as their personalities. There's a good amount of action, drama, comedy and romance in this movie. The nice blend actually makes it a pretty interesting date movie to check out. I know it might not seem like a romantic comedy, but as I said before, it really is disguised as one as there is a good amount of relationship material in the script. Wyman also has some nice surprises as well as twists and turns that doesn't make everything so predictable and easy. He also presents things so we don't always know the whole story. Leroy is one case as he features some twists, but what I liked a lot was the dialogue and how the legend of the gun is told. A few people tell the legend, and each time something is added on to it and in the end it's more complex and makes complete sense. I liked with the flashbacks how they show the characters, that was presented pretty well with Wyman's writing and Verbinksi pulls it off perfectly. Speaking of the gun, I liked the actual gun and the whole legend deal. I liked how it has the heart and the design of it.

So we have Gore Verbinski, who did the family sleeper "Mouse Hunt" for Dreamworks helms "The Mexican" and does a pretty good job. While I didn't always agree with his choices he made, he has a nice visual style that works well with the film. The editing here is nice and he sets the film at a very good pace. The two hours go by pretty quickly.

Still, not all is well with "The Mexican". I mentioned the nice premise and I really liked it... up until the last half-hour. Once something happens to Gandolfini's character, that's where the film went downhill for me. While I didn't exactly hate the whole finale and enjoyed parts of it, I expected totally different things and in the end, I was really disappointed.While I still really liked the movie, I felt it kind of ruined it for me. Still, despite this, "The Mexican" has some really great acting and blends so much with it's film style, romance, humor and much more. It's not for everyone, I think most of you will really enjoy it. Be sure to check it out.

"The Mexican" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and once again Dreamworks delivers a terrific transfer that won't disappoint anyone. I noticed some shimmering at times during the movie, and here and there I noticed some dirt, a few scratches and blemishes but nothing that distracts you really while watching the movie. The image itself is fantastic, as blacks are deep and solid, while colors are saturated to perfection that stand out within the style of the film and the unique color palette that is featured throughout it. Interior shots look perfect while the exterior shots look very realistic and fit in nicely. Detail is also really good which I was very glad to see. I didn't notice any edge enhancement either. Overall, a sharp transfer that lives up to the usual excellent Dreamworks presentation.

Dreamworks pumps out a Dolby Digital 5.1 track and a DTS 5.1 track as usual and the results will give your sound system a pretty good work out. These tracks are pretty powerful and really bring the film to full life and I was really happy and surprised how good they really sounded. I will say the DTS gets the edge once again but it's pretty neck and neck with the Dolby Digital in my humble opinion. I basically watched the movie in DTS and then compared key scenes with the Dolby Digital. The excellent Alan Silvestri score sounds amazing through the speakers, while a bevy of noises such as intense scenes involving vehicles, gunplay and tension filled scenes really rock the house. .1 LFE extension is fantastic while dialogue is clear and crisp, no muffling and no sounds that overpower it. I really didn't expect the tracks to sound so good so it just makes things sweeter. An English Dolby Surround track plus English subtitles are included with this release.

This isn't a full blown out special edition, but Dreamworks has packed "The Mexican" with some pretty outstanding bonus materials. The Audio Commentary with Director Gore Verbinski, Writer J.H. Wyman and Editor Craig Wood. This track is really dry and I found it to be pretty boring often, but they share some interesting stories about filming and the cast. The three comment about certain cuts and the like. Not the greatest commentary ever, but die hard fans of the film will want to check it out.

From The Cutting Room Floor features eight deleted scenes from the movie complete in two channel sound and anamorphic widescreen. An optional commentary with the trio is included, as they talk about the deleted scenes, why they were cut and their overall thoughts on them. I thought the commentary here was very interesting compared to the movie. As far as the scenes, most of them are extensions and are pretty entertaining but when you hear why you'll understand. You can view them separately or play 'em all.

The Making-Of The Mexican lasts fifteen minutes, and this was shown on HBO around when the film came out (I remember seeing it). I expected it in full frame, but to my surprise Dreamworks was kind enough to include it in anamorphic widescreen. Interviews with producers Lawrence Bender and John Baldecchi, Roberts, Gandolfini, Pitt and Verbinski can be found. Behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the movie are shown. It's pretty promotional but it's still a decent watch.

Rounding the disc out are the Theatrical Teaser and Theatrical Trailer in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, Cast and Filmmakers bios and filmographies plus Production Notes that can also be found within the keep case insert.

"The Mexican" is fine film and this is a great DVD release for it. Complete with Dolby Digital and DTS tracks, well mounted supplements as well as an incredible transfer, Dreamworks has once again provided a really nice DVD release. Be sure to check it out.

(4/5 - NOT included in final score)




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