Outtakes may have saved The Mexican

by Robert J. Hawkins | Aug 20, 2001
Outtakes may have saved The Mexican Theatergoers left screenings of "The Mexican" (DreamWorks, R, DVD/$20, VHS/rental) with one big question on their minds: What the heck happened to Ted? You see, Ted (J.K. Simmons) was this hitman with the demeanor of a government civil servant, who suddenly disappears from the movie after the film`s anti-hero, Jerry (Brad Pitt), learns that Ted`s assignment is to recover the missing antique revolver of the film`s title and then bump him off.

When last seen, Ted is handcuffed with the owner of a little pawnshop deep in Mexico. Considering that Ted was a mentor and father figure to Jerry for the first two-thirds of the film, well, that`s an odd bit of editing.

Nowhere can you find an explanation for the complete lack of on-screen charisma between Pitt and his co-star Julia Roberts. And nowhere can you find an explanation for this horrific hairdo affected by Roberts for this picture, the one that makes her look like an anorexic clown.

In "The Mexican," Pitt is a dirty-job gofer for an imprisoned gangster, Arnold Margulies (Gene Hackman, in an uncredited cameo). He is in prison because Jerry ran a stoplight five years earlier and hit Margulies` car. When police arrived, they found a man bound and gagged in the trunk and apparently en route to a bump-off. So Margulies figures Jerry owes him.

In five years, Jerry proves a pretty inept cappo. His outside boss, Nayman (Bob Balaban playing the guy like he was a Hollywood studio executive), despises him for his ineptitude. His girlfriend, Samantha (Roberts), hates that he puts his job before their relationship and her dream of moving to Las Vegas and becoming a casino croupier.

Jerry would be a total screw-up if it weren`t for the patient counseling of Ted. When Jerry completely messes up the simple retrieval of the pistol and a young drunk named Beck (David Krumholtz, remember Bernard the elf in "The Santa Clause"?), it is Ted who flies down to straighten things out. Ted. What happened?

The DVD version of the movie has the answers. This is where you`ve got to love this format if you`re a director with a 95-minute movie and 30 more minutes of great material. That`s about how much bonus footage DreamWorks was able to add to the disc under the heading "Cutting Room Floor."

Here is where we find that Ted and the pawnshop owner spend the night handcuffed together discussing family, love and marriage - specifically as it relates to the shop`s daughter and the resistant Ted. When the daughter comes to open the shop in the morning, it is love at first sight.

Jerry and Samantha show up for the subsequent wedding and - with Ted now out of the hitman business - make amends and return each other`s passports. James Gandolfini`s character, Leroy, another hitman - lots of hitmen in this movie - gets some much-needed attention in the "Cutting Room" clips.

There are many reasons to limit the length of a movie - audience attention span, the ability of a theater to screen it three times a night, economy of story and budget - but when a good movie needs 15 minutes to become a better one, somebody should have the guts to insist upon it.

Director Gore Verbinski lacks the juice in Hollywood to make that call. He must be ecstatic, however, that the DVD format permits him to salvage material which he obviously believed essential to the telling of the story. I have to say, few movies I`ve seen would have been so dramatically improved as "The Mexican" by restoring much of the 30-plus minutes of edited footage back into the picture.

ALSO THIS WEEK

"3000 Miles to Graceland" (Warner, R, VHS/rental, DVD/$20) - Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell slap on the sideburns and metal-framed sunglasses and blend in during Elvis Week in Las Vegas as they plot a $3.2 million heist at the Riviera Hotel. Not as funny as you`d think, considering the cast - Courtney Cox, Christian Slater, Kevin Pollak, David Arquette and Jon Lovitz.

On the other hand, there`s more gratuitous violence than you`d had to endure in a long time.

"An Everlasting Piece" (DreamWorks, R, DVD/$20, VHS/rental) - Barry McEvoy and Brian F. O`Bryne are a pair of scheming Irish barbers out to capture the toupee market.

Belfast-born McEvoy wrote the script based on the tales of his own father`s experiences in the hair trade. The direct-to-video comedy was directed by Barry Levinson ("Rain Man," "Avalon") and also features Billy Connolly and Anna Friel."

"Time and Tide" (Columbia TriStar, R, DVD/$25, VHS/rental) - In contemporary Hong Kong, a young bodyguard befriends another who is determined to build a new life with his new wife. The two work together to foil an assassination attempt, but soon find themselves on opposite sides in a deadly confrontation.

Action-thriller is directed by Tsui Hark, a contemporary of John Woo. Time magazine called him the "Hong Kong Spielberg." (Tsui is the writer/director/producer of the "Once Upon a Time in China" series.)

Several of the stars in "Time and Tide" are hot names in the Hong Kong pop music scene: Nicholas Tse, Wu Bai and Candy Lo. The DVD includes a director`s commentary track.

"Vatel" (Miramax, PG-13, DVD/$33, VHS/rental) - Gerard Depardieu stars as the title character, Francois Vatel, a real-life advisor to Prince de Conde of Chantilly (Julian Glover), who helped to save the province in western France from certain ruin.

The prince`s province is in a dreadful financial state when word arrives that the king and his entourage would be spending several days at the prince`s chateau. Vatel is engaged to organize the entertainment for the king in the hopes that he will bestow financial salvation upon the province, but an unanticipated betrayal nearly undoes the plan.

Uma Thurman is a lady-in-waiting for the queen, who befriends Vatel. Tim Roth is the king`s aide. Based on a true story, "Vatel" was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction.

"Shake, Rattle and Rock!" (Dimension, PG-13, DVD/$33, VHS/rental) - Renee Zellweger looks like she was barely out of high school when she made this fluffy little thing.

Ike`s in the White House and Little Richard is on the radio. But Susan Doyle`s mom (Nora Dunn) thinks her little angel is listening to "the devil`s music." So Susan (Zellweger) and pals Cookie (Patricia Childress) and Tony (Max Perlich) do what any red-blooded American teens would do - they form a rock `n` roll band. Their dream is a spot on "The Three O`Clock Hop" TV show hosted by smooth-talking Danny Klay (Howie Mandel). That`ll show mom.

"These Old Broads" (Columbia TriStar, made for TV/unrated, VHS) - Carrie Fisher co-wrote this television movie for her mom, Debbie Reynolds, and pals Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor.

Bigger-than-life actresses play bigger-than-life actresses who starred in a `60s musical and hated each other ever since. Now, 40 years later, it becomes a revival hit and they must reunite with their agent (Taylor).

Termites can`t chew wood as effectively as these dames can chew scenery.

"Recess: School`s Out" (Disney, D, VHS/$25, DVD/$30) - Animated feature film grew out of the Disney TV series. Includes character voices by James Woods and Melissa Joan Hart. The DVD version includes a game, a digital comic book, a behind-the-scenes feature on the making of the movie and two music videos: Robert Goulet singing "Green Tambourine" and Myra singing "Dancing in the Street."

DVD UPDATES

Available this week: The popular family movie "Fly Away Home" comes to DVD loaded with extras, including an audio commentary track by director Carroll Ballard and cinematographer Caleb Deschanel. Music composer Mark Isham contributes a commentary track and you can play the movie`s music score separately from the film. There are several features on geese migration and the movie.

Based on a true story, Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin are an estranged father and daughter who use a small, single-passenger aircraft to lead an orphaned flock of geese south, from Canada to their winter home.

Another family film, "Short Circuit 2," stars Fisher Stevens, Michael McKean, Cynthia Gibb and Jack Weston in the 1988 sequel about "lovable" robot No. 5 - quaint by current robot standards.

The disc includes a making-of featurette and profile on actor Stevens.

"The John Carpenter Collection" (Columbia TriStar, DVD three-pack, $42) - Three from the venerable director of horror/sci-fi pictures: "Starman" (with Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen); "Christine" (Keith Gordon, John Stockwell, Harry Dean Stanton); and "John Carpenter`s Vampires" (James Woods, Daniel Baldwin and Sheryl Lee).

Also new to DVD this week: "Three Ninjas: Kick Back," "Three Ninjas: Knuckle Up" and "The Next Karate Kid," each priced under $20.

(c) Copley News Service

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Author: Robert J. Hawkins

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