CAPSULE: Robert Duvall plays a curmudgeonly Texas rancher who loses his house and land after a period of drought. His estranged grandson visits him. The rancher, never enjoyable to be around, takes his newfound grandson across the border to raise hell in a Mexican bar and brothel. He is funding this trip with literally found money. And the owner is willing to kill to get it back. It seems that the other side of the border is a very different place, easy to appreciate and harder to survive in. Where the script goes wrong is the story is driven forward by far too many coincidences.Director: Emilio Aragon. Writer: William D. Wittliff. Stars: Robert Duvall, Jeremy Irvine, Angie Cepeda. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10
I came away from A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO liking it a lot but not respecting it much at all. The plot is awkwardly constructed with far too many coincidences happening at one time and driving the action. Very early in the story the Robert Duvall character, Red, meets his grandson Gally Bovie and neither much has any use for the other. (Do you care to guess where this relationship is going?) The film is built on ready-made pieces that will be familiar and that fit together in a comfortable and likeable if predictable package. The plot is the cinema equivalent of comfort food.
None of the fault here falls on the shoulders of Duvall, who remains one of our country's best actors. Here he sounds a lot like Gus McCrae from LONESOME DOVE. Some nice style comes from sending the main characters into Mexico on the Day of the Dead. If it is not as stylish as the Day of the Dead celebration in SPECTRE, at least it is much more believable. Border towns are usually dangerous places to be any night, and this not an ordinary night. This is the night of the fiesta of the Day of The Dead (another coincidence). And along the way Red just happened to get himself a sack of mob money. Whenever the plot slows down a coincidence seems to come along and drive the plot forward. That is unfortunate because the best moments of the film are when the plot slows down enough for the viewer to get to know the characters. There is a likeable prostitute oddly named Patty Wafers (Angie Cepeda). Even the crooks seem to have a decent side. And the Mexican border town is enthralling even if it is a good place to get shot.
Supposedly Duvall has wanted to play a character like Red for some time. And it may be easy to see why. The film's major virtues are not the originality of the plot. It is not so much a thriller as a character piece. And it is not so much a character peace as a part that Duvall could take and run with. At 87 Duvall is still creating memorable characters. He still has a gift of creating memorable people on the screen and that is probably more important to him than being in someone else's flashy production.
I rate A NIGHT IN OLD MEXICO a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or /10.
Film Credits: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2308260/reference
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/a_night_in_old_mexico
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2018 Mark R. Leeper