The Mexican is certainly commercial product. It is well polished product too, although this is in spite rather than because of its two stars. Not to denigrate either Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts both can do some fine acting work when they want to see Brad in Kalifornia (1993) and Julia in Erin Brokovich (2000), although she does do too much of this light romantic comedy. It is just that The Mexican is never likely to rank among eithers best performances. She does a Sandra Bullock type-thing, getting flustered and having random, never too coherent outbursts that we are supposed to find cute. Brad does a variant on his role in Meet Joe Black (1998). Someone should tell him that comedy is not his thing he feels strained in the part of a klutzy, would-be tough guy. This is a Ben Stiller role (indeed Stiller was originally slated to star). You just keep thinking that any Mob head that would assign a bumbling, clueless dick such an important task would have to be a little daft himself. The films biggest problem is that two central characters are annoying. Indeed, you could see the films keeping them apart for the greater part of the story as judicious, for when they are together there is no passion generated, only an overly loud comic riff on the idea of them getting mad with the other without realizing how much they love the other.
The films saving grace is James Gandolfini. Many other actors would have regarded this as a throwaway supporting part but James Gandolfini, who at the time was the reigning tough guy in tvs The Sopranos (1999-2007), gives the part subtlety and shading. His divided sexuality ends up becoming the heart of the film, far more so than the light fluff of Brad and Julias reconciliation ever does. As in The Sopranos, Gandolfinis large, slightly blank face proves one filled with surprising softness and quiet-spokenness he defies the very tough guy roles he is cast in.
For all the criticism lumped on the lightness of the script, the flips between the two concurrent stories is dextrously handled the film feels like a novel that keeps alternating chapters between two protagonists. At times, The Mexican comes quite close to Nurse Betty (2000), which came out a few months earlier. Director Gore Verbinski, whose previous film was the live-action Tom and Jerry film MouseHunt (1997), also for DreamWorks, does a fine job with the action set-ups and comedy, not to mention has a good eye for the expansive Mexican countryside.
Gore Verbinski next went onto make the surprisingly good English-language remake of The Ring (2002); the huge box-office success of the pirate swashbucklers Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Mans Chest (2006) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End (2007); the animated Rango (2011); and the big screen version of The Lone Ranger (2013); as well as producing The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013).
(Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (James Gandolfini) at this sites Best of 2001 Awards).