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.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024