May 8, 2001 10:47: The Mexican is definitely a romantic comedy/road movie with a difference, the difference being the lovers head their separate ways Julia Roberts to Las Vegas and Brad Pitt to Mexico.

How's that for sweethearts on the run? On the run from us noticing these two Hollywood big shots have about as much chemistry as a biology set more like. Star-crossed lovers they ain't star-obsessed maybe. But let's be fair, Roberts is quite a tour de force these days and not the easiest one to pair-up with (as she demonstrated in My Best Friend's Wedding).

And Pitt is still something of an enigma, more used to playing distant figures of envy than lead protagonists required to carry movies, so director Gore Verbinski was asking for trouble.

But even with the two heavyweights nearly always apart, this movie has still got big bucks written all over it, and it is slick and amiable enough to amble along amusingly.

The storyline, for what it's worth, concerns a legendary but cursed pistol.

Jerry, endearingly played by Pitt, is in big trouble with the mob. Unless he retrieves the valuable weapon his days are numbered.

As he tells an unsympathetic Sam (played with razor-sharp wit by hothead Roberts), "You're missing the grand design here. If I don't go they're gonna kill me."

Naturally, he blunders with dogged persistence from one hapless escapade to another, and, despite reminders of that great Peckinpah movie, Bring Me the Head of Alfreda Garcia, Jerry's Mexican misadventures are firmly played for laughs.

Meanwhile, Sam is off to Vegas hellbent on becoming a croupier. It's just that gay hit man Leroy (James Gandolfini of Sopranos fame) has the task of taking Sam hostage to ensure Jerry delivers the goods.

For a cold-blooded killer, he sure likes to talk-up how true love doesn't run smoothly.

Presumably Leroy's observations are there to confirm just how much Sam and Jerry are made for each other, but that's not likely to happen.

Instead you get the feeling the last thing a free spirit like Sam wants is to be held back by a self-absorbed slacker like Jerry hardly intentional, but very amusing.

Oh well, see The Mexican just don't expect to remember it.