Robert Duvall is reason enough to see almost any movie, and he’s in fine form in a role tailor-made for him by Bill Wittliff, who wrote the teleplay for the unforgettable miniseries Lonesome Dove. That expansive Western saga by Larry McMurtry gave Duvall one of his all-time best roles, as Gus McRae, and A Night in Old Mexico might be seen as an extension of that character set in modern times. Director Emilio Aragón sets the stage, perfectly and unobtrusively.
Red Bovie (Duvall) is a crotchety old man who has just lost his Texas ranch, and with it his dignity and will to live. He is spurred on by the arrival of a now-grown grandson (Jeremy Irvine) he’s never met, the offspring of his long-estranged son. With nothing more to lose and a what-the-hell attitude, he and the boy set off across the border for “a night in old Mexico,” an evening of carousing that will ostensibly be a last hurrah for the old man. They don’t count on encountering drug smugglers, getting caught in the crossfire between warring enemies, or becoming involved with a sexy woman (Angie Cepeda) whose dreams of stardom have stalled at a rowdy café.
It’s fairly plain that A Night in Old Mexico is a vehicle for Duvall, and as such it’s thoroughly enjoyable: a lightweight film that’s easy to take but elevated to a higher level than it might otherwise attain by the committed presence of its leading actor. Watching him in his element is a genuine treat.