Mega watt star power adds appeal, but direction and dialogue reign supreme in this well made film that centers around Jerry, played by Brad Pitt, his girlfriend Samantha, well played by Julia Roberts and a legendary handgun.
Filmmakers are smart enough to utilize the main stars’ attributes right from the beginning as Roberts gives a big smile for the camera and then the audience focuses on Pitt’s golden locks. Sure it’s great to see Roberts and Pitt on the screen together, but their roles in this film are uneven at times. For example, notice how the scene were Samantha makes a movie reference as a derogatory quip about Jerry seems too staged and forced.
Jerry is one roller coaster of a character as he spans from hapless to hopeless to intelligent to inept. The plot helps build sympathy and attention to his character by placing two big crises at the front of the plot – one, his dwindling relationship with Samantha and, two, his involuntary involvement with the mob. These two factors should be enough reason for you to side with Jerry, but his actions are so shifty that you never really get to know him enough to side with him.
In Jerry’s forced quest to retrieve the legendary handgun, he fumbles terribly then impressively fixes his mistake only to fumble again later. He honorably finalizes an unfortunate tragedy, but then practically dances for joy when he instigates a later tragedy (granted this incident was justified, but still an odd scene to watch). How can the audience feel anything for Jerry if they don’t know how Jerry feels?
James Gandolfini (Last Castle, TV’s Sopranos) has a stand out performance as a hitman who’s “just here to regulate funkiness.” J.K. Simmons (TV’s Law and Order) plays Ted, Jerry’s frequent associate in his dealing with the mob. Bob Balaban (Midnight Cowboy, Close Encounter of the Third Kind, The Lost World: Jurassic Park) also stars as Nayman, a key manager in the mob group.
Set mostly in Mexico, the plot serves up a mix of drama, action, romance and comedy as the characters cross paths throughout In the end, certain characters’ fates are dependant on what they say at crucial times, an interesting element of the film’s climax.
Writer J.H.Wyman, who also has been a director, inserts amusing little tidbits, such as movie references and timeouts, with repeated thematic elements, like traffic lights being used as tension barometers, to supply talented director Gore Verbinski (Mouse Hunt) with strong visuals. Notice how Wyman presents things in threes, references “crime of anger, not attraction”, fate and the “instrument of the situation”. A great plot even though he does miss one important detail regarding passport logistics.
The background stories told by various characters strengthen the film tremendously. If these stories were not depicted visually, instead of just told by the characters as the audience watched them, the overall results wouldn’t be less impactful. Music by experienced composer Alan Silversti (Forrest Gump, Predator) also adds some emotion to the plot with good orchestration and music that fits the characters’ locales.
The audience get many memorable lines of dialogue to choose from in the Mexican, but the separation and final settlement between Jerry and Samantha doesn’t reach a satisfying conclusion. Still recommended (*** out of four stars), mainly for the writing, direction and Gandolfini’s performance, and rated R for violence and language.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler