Robert Duvall won an Oscar for his finely calibrated portrayal of a recovering alcoholic country singer in “Tender Mercies,” and much of his best work is in service to nuanced roles. Yet his most memorable performances also include some where he goes big, as in, for example, the napalm-loving Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” When he has fun, he lets us in on it.
Duvall has fun in “A Night in Old Mexico” as Red Bovie, the latest in a series of ranchers he’s played in recent years. Red’s an ornery cuss who’s lost his South Texas spread to the banks.
Just as he’s about to end it all, there’s a knock on the barn door from Gally (Jeremy Irvine), a grandson he’s never met. They have barely exchanged howdies when Red, who is being forced to leave his homestead, impulsively takes off in his Caddy for good times across the border, Gally reluctantly riding shotgun.
Arriving in a border town, Red and Gally dance and drink tequila, vie for a beautiful señorita and stumble onto a backpack filled with drug money that many professional killers want back.
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As Duvall paints his portrait of the none-too-cuddly Red in broad brush strokes, Irvine and the others have a hard time keeping up. Still, director Emilio Aragón wisely trains the camera on Duvall. “A Night in Old Mexico” is his baby, and he rocks it.