‘A Night in Old Mexico’ movie review


When a singer takes a shine to Red (Robert Duvall) in “A Night in Old Mexico,” it’s hard to understand why. Red seems to be mean for the sake of being mean. (Phase 4 Films)

A Night in Old Mexico” opens with the first stanza of the Dylan Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” so clearly the filmmakers approve of raging against the dying of the light. And aging cowboy Red Bovie, played by Robert Duvall, knows how to stir up a ruckus, even if his particular brand of raging often feels less heroic than abrasive.

The rancher is losing his land to developers and faces moving into a trailer park when his grandson, Gally (Jeremy Irvine), appears at the front door. The two have never met — Gally’s father and Red are estranged — but they quickly become co-conspirators as they hightail it to Mexico for Red’s holy trinity: singing, dancing and women.

Along the way they pick up a couple of killer thieves, but when the murderers unceremoniously help themselves to Red’s stash of beer, he ditches them during a pit stop, unwittingly stealing a bag of cash the robbers left in the backseat. So, the family trip to old Mexico isn’t going to be exactly straightforward. In between guzzling brews and visiting a brothel, Red and Gally have to dodge bullets and plan a strategic escape from the aforementioned robbers, who catch up with them.

Eventually they meet Patty Wafers (Angie Cepeda), a stunning singer and stripper who can’t utter a sentence without using at least one expletive. She inexplicably falls for Red, even though his conversational skills generally consist of name-calling and making fun of his grandson’s masturbatory habits. At one point, Red even puts the trio in danger by telling a very large, very terrifying criminal that he looks like a hippo.

Duvall has reteamed with “Lonesome Dove” screenwriter William D. Wittliff for this modern-day Western directed by Emilio Aragón. That 1989 miniseries, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, had heart and lots of tear-jerking moments amid the nail-biting scenes that sprouted from the harsh realities of a 19th-century cattle drive. “A Night in Old Mexico” succeeds when it comes to suspense, and the ever-evolving plot will keep viewers guessing. But the movie doesn’t have the same kind of emotional depth that Duvall and Wittliff managed to pull off decades ago. Worse, the dialogue often sounds stilted.

Duvall’s lines are mostly just mean-spirited, especially when he’s making fun of a woman’s mustache or belittling his grandson’s clothes. Once a person reaches a certain age and he opts to rage, he might feel he has earned the right to say whatever he wants. But it doesn’t mean you’ll like watching a movie about him.

★ ★ Unrated. At West End Cinema. Contains violence and strong language. 103 minutes.

Washington-area native Stephanie Merry covers movies and pop culture for the Post.
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