Part road movie, part romantic comedy, part thriller, and a whole lotta fun, The Mexican could get by on star power alone, but it offers Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, and a clever plot full of delightful surprises. It's a thoroughly enjoyable shaggy-dog story in which the downtrodden Jerry Welbach (Pitt) copes with a dual dilemma: his girlfriend Samantha (Roberts) has just dumped him to pursue solo ambitions in Las Vegas, and a manipulative mobster has ordered Jerry to Mexico to retrieve a coveted antique pistol (the "Mexican" of the title) that carries a legacy of legend, death, and danger. Jerry soon has his hands full with bandits, bloodshed, and a grizzly hound dog that vanishes and reappears with amusing regularity. En route to Vegas, Samantha's taken hostage by a burly assassin (James Gandolfini) who's attached to the gun-fetching scheme and is, in more ways than one, not who he seems to be.
Like a good magic act, J.H. Wyman's original screenplay distracts you from its gaps of logic, using unexpected revelations to fuel its strategic vitality. It also provides a wealth of character development, and director Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt) gives his stellar cast equal time to shine. It hardly matters that Pitt and Roberts spend most of the film apart; their time together is worth waiting for, and the machinations that separate them play out like a cross between vintage Peckinpah and Romancing the Stone. And why is the accursed pistola so valuable? That's just another surprise, setting the stage for the arrival of yet another big-name star, whose motivations are pure in a film full of double-crosses and darkly shaded humor. With a giddy plot like this, star power is just icing on the cake. --Jeff Shannon