DVD Review: A Night in Old Mexico

night-in-old-mexicoDon’t you sometimes feel that you’ve grown up with Robert Duvall? From his breakout performance as Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962), to his breakthrough turns as Tom Hagen in “The Godfather” and “The Godfather II” (1972, 1974), Duvall has always been his own guy.

Never movie star handsome, he’s nonetheless an attractive man whose characters are 92 percent salt of the earth and 8 percent mad. Except in “MASH” (1970) and “Apocalypse Now” (1979), where the formula was reversed.

Maybe his best role was as Gus McCrae in the miniseries made of Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove.” He had that life-loving twinkle in the eyes, even when times were tough. He has it still, at age 83. Duvall is back in denim and stetson as Red Bovie in “A Night in Old Mexico.” It’s set in the present, but Red and Gus have a lot in common.

Which is not to suggest that “A Night” is an extension of “Lonesome Dove.” No, sir. If anything, it’s a remake of “Scent of a Woman” (1992), an excellent movie in which Al Pacino (Tom Hagan’s old boss in the “Godfather”) plays a bitter, blind, medically retired Army officer who takes one last fling at life by duping his young caregiver (Chris O’Donnell) into taking him to New York City for a wild weekend. Pacino won the Best Acting Oscar for his performance.

Duvall won’t be winning any Oscars for his portrayal of Red. It’s not that he doesn’t do a good job. He does. But it doesn’t look like he’s giving it much effort. And “A Night in Old Mexico” is not exactly the “Citizen Kane” of grizzled old cowboy movies.

Plotwise, it seems that Red, a miserable old cuss, has just lost his Texas ranch as a result of a poorly timed bank loan for livestock and a tremendously poorly timed drought. He’s being moved out of his house to rusticate in a single-wide in a grisly trailer park. He’d rather be dead and, matching the word to the deed, goes off with a six-shooter and prepares to end it all. The target practice on his head is just about to start when he’s interrupted by the unexpected arrival of a callow youth: his 20-something grandson (Jeremy Irvine).

Callow grandson has dropped out of college and decided to meet his grandpa. Red is estranged from his son and none too excited about meeting his grandson. On the other hand, companionship can be handy on a road trip and a road trip — not suicide and not a single-wide — is what Red has in mind.

The two take off in Red’s Caddie with a case of Bud and very little in the way of plans beyond nipping in to Mexico for a little hell-raising. A night in old Mexico, you might say.

Of course, this being Mexico, the place is crawling with drug smugglers and sexy senoritas. One of the latter, is a saloon singer with a heart of gold (Angie Cepeda) who wants more out of life than shedding her shirt in front of a bunch of unwashed cowhands.

Director Emilio Aragón keeps the story from stalling, but the only reason to see this movie is to watch Duvall in action. The rest of the story you already know.

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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