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Once Upon a Time In Mexico (R)
Sony Pictures
Official Site
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Elizabeth Avellan, Carlos Gallardo, Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Cast : Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Rubén Blades, Eva Mendes, Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Enrique Iglesias

Rating: out of 5


After establishing the lucrative Spy Kids franchise, Robert Rodriguez returns to his roots with another of his El Maraichi films. You may remember that Rodriguez made his name with the first of these, a low-low budget actioner that got a lot of press for its scanty budget (supposedly about $7,000). Quaint as that one may have been, I felt its sequel, Desperado, was a far superior work, unjustly maligned at the time for its relatively astronomical budget ($7 million) and for committing the unpardonable sin of being “Tarantinoesque.” Well these minor complaints aside, it was a great sexy action film that nonetheless lost me at the end when the film reached a crescendo of silliness, with an absurd plot twist and rocket-launching guitar cases.

In this film Rodriguez picks up right where he left off. Stylistically, Once Upon A Time In Mexico is a brash colorful carnival of violence with elaborate action scenes every five minutes. This an action movie for the Ritalin generation, sort of like John Woo directing one of the campy Roger Moore Bond flicks. And although the transition to this sort of cartoon action send-up left me cold at the end of the more finely crafted Desperado, here I appreciated the consistently merry mayhem.

The plot finds our intrepid mariachi player lovelorn after the murder of Carolina (Hayek, who apppears in flashbacks) by a renegade general who’s now working with a drug dealer, Barillo (Dafoe, reptilian as ever) to overthrow the reform-minded president. Banderas’ guitar player is drawn into this by an amoral CIA agent (Depp) looking to score for himself once all the smoke clears. Along the way there a whole lot of gunfights and explosions. This is not a cerebral film.

The cast is terrific but, as he did in Pirates Of The Caribbean, Depp steals the show. Even though his character isn’t nearly as central to the plot, Depp manages to take up as much screen time as Banderas though it’s not hard to see why. With his foppish CIA agent, Depp has found another whacked-out charmer who keeps things rolling in between the action, and, as in Pirates, he has all the best lines. Also worth noting is a rare Mickey Rourke appearance, complete with pet chihuahua in tow. (For those of you who don’t know, he pioneered the chihuahua as an accessory pet.) And this film represents perhaps the last time you’ll get to see Enrique Iglesias, pre-mole removal.

With Once Upon A time In Mexico, Rodriguez again proves his skill in handling the action scenes; what he may lack in narrative prowess is covered in a haze of gun smoke. This film is a treat for the eyes and an opportunity to rest the mind.

—Edward Rholes

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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