In association with
Review published
September 15, 2003
A.J.'s Rating:  3.5 Stars
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Directed By:  Robert Rodriguez
Written By:  Robert Rodriguez
Shot, Chopped, & Scored By:  Robert Rodriguez
Starring:  Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Micky Rourke, Salma Hayek,
Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Leonardi, Cheech Marin,
Rubén Blades, Willem Dafoe, Gerardo Vigil, Pedro Armendáriz Jr.

MPAA:  Rated R for strong violence, and for language
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    Continuing his homage to the late, great Sergio Leone, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has finally completed his 'Tamale Western' trilogy with Once Upon a Time in Mexico.  Yes, Antonio Banderas returns as the legendary, lethal guitar-slinger known as El Mariachi, this time as a pawn in Johnny Depp's tangled web of espionage and political dirty tricks.  Depp plays Agent Sands, corrupt CIA spook and all-around loose cannon, who has some rather unorthodox compulsions for maintaining the so-called 'balance' in Mexico.  More about him later!  As for El Mariachi, his foes are many and varied, resulting in non-stop explosive action.  Also, as in his previous adventure, Desperado, El Mariachi continues to be tormented by the one enemy he cannot defeat... memories of his own tragic, violent past.
         Some of the things I enjoyed most about this movie were the more unusual touches that Rodriguez has thoughtfully added.  Especially interesting were the depictions of El Mariachi's memories, flashbacks to events that transpired in El Mariachi and Desperado, which were compressed, exaggerated versions of those events.  In other words, even he remembers his exploits in the same mythic fashion as those who idolize him. There are even flashbacks to events that take place between those of Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico!  This gives El Mariachi's character some additional psychological complexity, while giving fans some incredible action that offers far more excitement than standard flashback retreads.  And, speaking of action, there were plenty of thrilling sequences that had me thinking, "Whoa!  I've never seen anything quite like that before!"
    Now, if all of this doesn't sound incredibly cool to you, then you just don't know what 'cool' is!  This is Robert Rodriguez's dream project, and it shows in every frame.  Okay, maybe the action sequences look a little too much like music videos.  Maybe some of the outdoor scenes suffer from the fact that Rodriguez shot everything entirely with digital movie cameras.  Maybe the continuity isn't quite, um, continuous.  Maybe the story doesn't really make a huge amount of, oh, what do you call it? - Sense.  And finally, maybe none of that matters at all.  Logic?  We don't need no stinking logic!  This flick rocks, and that's not even counting the handful of scenes that temporarily transform it into the strangely compelling Johnny Depp Show. 
    See, I told you there would be more about him!  Agent Sands highjacks every scene he's in, with the same dark humor and semi-psychotic quirkiness that Johnny Depp has become known for.  Normally, such complete dominance by a secondary character would doom the entire production, but, as with many of Depp's recent roles, anything considered even remotely normal can be quite happily disregarded.  With originality that often defies description, Depp makes this character his own.  And, I must say, that's a skill he's become damn good at!
    So, are you looking for action?  Are you looking for excitement?  Are you looking for some incredibly hot stars?  No problemo.  Once Upon a Time in Mexico has all of that, and more.  El Mariachi es muy macho!