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Once Upon A Time In Mexico (2003)
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Review Date: September 08, 2003
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Producers: Robert Rodriguez, Carlos Gallardo, Elizabeth Avellan
Actors:
Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi
Johnny Depp as Agent Sands
Salma Hayek as Carolina
Plot:
Part three of the "Mariachi Trilogy" has arrived and this time an undercover CIA agent is sent to Mexico to hire the Zorro-esque guitar-man to kill the guy who killed his girl and who will be killing the President of Mexico in the very near future. Got all that? Well, add to that...an ex-FBI man looking to avenge his friend's murder, a badass cartel leader eyeing a political takeover, two mariachi buddies, one of whom likes the ladies and the other who likes "the drink", a sexy local babe-cop looking to score some points with her higher-ups and...Mickey Rourke! Mix and serve.
Critique:
This isn't a great movie, this isn't a seamless movie, this isn't a movie that's going to change the world of filmmaking as we know it, but it's a fun movie, it's a cool movie and hand to God...it features one of the most entertaining casts this side of the overrated OCEAN'S 11. Don't try to take this movie seriously because it's not made for that. It's a cheesy B-flick western created with big-name stars, a small budget and a lean shooting schedule, and considering that director Robert Rodriguez did everything on this movie (write, direct, edit, produce, etc...) but get killed as an extra (then again?), you gotta give the man credit for continuing to do with very little money and time, what others can't do given hundreds of millions of dollars (and yeah, I'm talking to you, Jan De Bont!) This film was made with amusement in mind, oozes entertainment value and has got camp written all over it. It also moves at a zippy pace, slowing down only to slap a few "romantic" montages of Banderas and Hayek making out in there for the chicks (and yeah, some of the guys) in the audience. The action is also as over-the-top as you would expect with men literally flying into walls when shot by guns, and others flipping every which side but Sunday when sprayed with machine-gun fire. Hilarious! But it's a blast and along with a few twists and backstabs in the plot, a number of very funny moments (most of which feature the great Johnny Depp- love his little visit with the "chef") and Salma Hayek looking as hot as ever (although she doesn't have more than three lines in the entire picture), there's no reason why you shouldn't leave the theater after a little over a buck and a half and consider your money well spent...entertainment-wise.

What doesn't work in the film? A number of things including a so-so plotline, too many characters, many of whom barely have any screen-time and a handful of video transfers that looked a little too "real" (the whole film was shot on digital video cameras) or straight-to-video. The film's score rocked though, as did its overall gorgeous "look", with the DV really bringing out the vivid colors of the Mexican culture. But at the end of the day, really...the movie wouldn't be "all that" were it not for the one thing that truly takes it to that next level: the cast! How can you go wrong with a bunch of kickass, coolass, fineass muthas like Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Antonio Banderas, Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo acting the shite and blowing people away, while hotties like Hayek and big-boobed Eva Mendes glide around looking hot and also kicking ass! Well, you can't...really! Depp, especially, continues to steal the show, with yet another uber-charismatic performance as the CIA operative with a number of seemingly interrelated contacts with whom he meets "undercover" (loved the T-shirts, the CLASH OF THE TITANS lunchbox and the marijuana belt-buckle...sweet!) Depp is just too cool for words here, and his final "walk to the finish line" is definitely one for the books (and such lovely eyes!) Banderas was also cool as shite and it didn't hurt that he added a little bit of grace and romance to his man. I still have no idea what Enrique Iglesias was doing in this movie, but I guess that's a "Latin thang". In the end, if you liked EL MARIACHI, enjoyed DESPERADO...ONCE UPON A TIME MEXICO is sure to twist your tittie as well.

One thing I will say to Rodriguez is that it's time for him to take his obvious talent, efficient nature and "power" as a grade-A Hollywood helmer, and make an epic motion picture, something substantial, something that will have something to say, awe folks and take him to that next level a la Tarantino, Jackson, Raimi or Del Toro. You've paid your dues, had your fun...now show us what you've really got, moochacho! So yes, this wasn't the all-out awesome movie that I was expecting, but it was fun, featured the ultimate cast of the year, got my blood pumpin' in several scenes, cracked me up in others and definitely had me sprinting for the border, hoping to get shot by a cool man dressed in black serving me tequila while "getting hand" from a local barmaid and a kick in the cajones by the lovely Salma Hayek. Yeah...that's the ticket.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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