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on February 6, 2004
Once Upon A Time in Mexico is the third movie in the El Mariachi trilogy and a fitting end for it. While the plot can be confusing, it is not as bad as some reviewers made it out to be. If you pay attention, you'll be fine. A CIA agent is trying to stop an assassination by hiring El Mariachi. The man behind the assassination of the president of Mexico is Barillo, a drug kingpin trying to take control of the country. There are numerous subplots with plenty of backstabbing and betrayals that are too many too mention. There are plenty of great, over-the-top action scenes here that will blow you away. The movie has tons of great characters, some more well-developed than others. Also, director Robert Rodriguez shot this film beautifully in Mexico making it that much more enjoyable.
Antonio Banderas returns as the brooding gunman, El Mariachi, who is seeking revenge against a rogue general, Marquez. Why he is seeking revenge is revealed in flashback. Banderas is perfect once again in the role. Johnny Depp steals every scene he is in as Agent Sands, the sarcastic, psychotic CIA agent. He has too many one-liners to mention. Salma Hayek has little to do here, but who cares, she looks gorgeous. The impressive cast includes Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Willem Dafoe, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Ruben Blades, and Enrique Iglesias. The DVD offers commentary by Rodriguez, two featurettes, deleted scenes, widescreen presentation, and several other worthwhile extras. This is a great over the top action movie that never slows down from beginning to end. The finale with Agent Sands has to be seen. For a great action movie with an excellent cast, check out Once Upon a Time in Mexico!
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on January 31, 2004
Well, where to begin. Once Upon A Time In Mexico or El Mariachi 3 is, I regret to say, a very disapointing sequel to the outstanding Desperado. While there are some memorable scenes, most of the movie carries through with a lot of nonsense and un-entertaining drabble.
The star of this movie, no matter what the credits read, is Johnny Depp. Depp is proving to be quite the comedic and action force in movies lately, Pirates of the Carribean, Sleepy Hollow and From Hell, just to name a few. He is a wonderful talent and a pleasure to watch any time he's on screen. However, even with his much needed help, this movie lacks punch and more importantly interest. I just found myself not interested a lot of times and that hurts anyone's viewing of a movie.
There are a few good things that work in the movie, and that is, the aforementioned performance by Depp, some cool special effects, namely the scene when Depp is, umm, hurt. (Those who saw the film will know what I mean - didn't want to add any spoilers), and there is some good dialogue here and there.
Unfortunetly, the bad out weigh the good, with boring strung out scenes, some absurd action scenes and not enough of El Mariachi himself, kicking around bad guys. Also, a dramatic backstory for Selma Hayek (complete with flashbacks) is poorly done.
This film had a lot potential and hype before it was released, with an all star cast including Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe in supporting roles, but the train just ran out of steam. Rent it for Johnny Depp and to draw your own conclusions but I think you're going to find that this is one to leave on the shelf.
Two and a half stars out of five.
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on January 7, 2004
I was amazed when watching this movie. The film I have to admit is more stylish than "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill". There is alot more action and suspense (well not a lot of suspense). Johnny Depp up until recently, never struck me as an awesome actor. He was alright, but not the best. He was good in Edward Scissorhands but he was horrible in Sleepy Hollow. In "Pirates of the Caribbean" he was great, but in "...Mexico" he is amazing! He really is a talented actor. Antonio Banderas as usual is brooding as usual. He doesn't really do anything special except in the gun battles. Salma Hayek, oh!! don't even get me started on her! Apparently if I remember correctly she lived at the end of Desperado (correct me if I'm wrong) but also apparently she has died in between Desperado and ...Mexico. So she is in here only for the sake of flashback sequences which sucks! I was expecting a better performance! I was disappointed, but I didn't let that small factor dampen my spirits. On another level, the gun battles are really cool, but are a little too fake, like when people go flying in the air from being shot, it seems too unrealistic! Overall, this is a good way to spend 1 hour 40 minutes, but if you're looking for another Salma Hayek sex scene like in Desperado, watch Desperado again because there is no sex or nudity in this movie which is a good thing because it would have ruined the movie. watch this movie now!
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on July 3, 2004
I find Rodriquez's DVD's additional features just as enjoyable to watch as the movie feature itself. From the features, we can sense that the Director is young, dynamic, & enormously talented; a Director that likes to get his hands dirty and be involved in ALL aspects of the production if he manages to find time to do so; a Director that is experimental and willing to embrace changes especially his fling with the digital high density technology that is used in Star Wars prequel; a Director that has a whimiscal sense of humour by introducing a cooking class and in the not long future, fornification class (believe it or not!); a shrewd Director who believes that a profitable and enjoyable movie can be made in the shortest of time by thinking outside the square and willingness to try something new; a Director who still works from his own house and away from Hollywood. It's obvious he gets so much joy doing the movie & his thoughts are simply rambled through the interview. He told us the inspiration behind the movie, the connection between this movie & Quentin Tarantino, how El Mariachi came about, & it's also interesting to hear from the actors & actresses of reasons why they would love to work with this new generation Director. If you have watched Desperado before, you would know what to expect but it's the additional features in this DVD collection that packs a punch. Highly recommended! Last note, it might be forgettable but Rodriguez reminds us all that movie making needn't be a chore!
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on May 26, 2004
You know what a good definition of a crime is? A crime is when you have Salma Hayek in a movie and don't use her. A crime is when you have an action movie and there are long non-action sequences that aren't very interesting. A crime is when you have Antonio Banderas, who is so good doing a part like this, trying to do too many other things (okay, that's a crime that too many other movies committed, not this movie). Which movie am I talking about? Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the culprit. This is a stylish movie in the same vein as his earlier Desperado and El Mariachi, but it's not quite as good.
One of the problems is the plot. It's convoluted even for an action flick. Desperado was easy. A drug kingpin who El Mariachi (Banderas) was after for personal reasons controls a town, and our hero has to fight him. Once Upon a Time in Mexico, however, is much more political, with the president of Mexico in line for assassination. A rogue CIA agent (Johnny Depp), instead of trying to stop it, is trying to profit from it by asking El Mariachi to kill the leader of the rebel army in charge of the assassination (Gerardo Vigil), who also happens to be the man who killed El Mariachi's wife (Salma Hayek). Confused? I still am, and I watched the thing. He also sets a retired FBI agent (Reuben Blades) after Barillo (Willem Defoe), who is the drug kingpin who had the agent's partner tortured and murdered. So, basically, everybody's supposed to die, and the CIA agent is supposed to get something out of all this? I actually thought I understood it a little bit until I tried to explain it.
While the plot is very murky, the action set-pieces are great. Unrealistic, but they usually are in movies like this. That's part of the charm. Banderas falls of a church balcony, shooting upward and killing his assailant, then lands on his back and just rolls over and gets up. You don't watch these things for the realism, however. You watch them for the style. Rodriguez has style in spades, and the scenes are very enjoyable to watch. Head shots, leg shots, blood flying every where. Bodies jumping, in a graceful pirouette as the bullets spatter, it's all great. Especially good is the shootout in the church, especially when they all pause to let the little old woman who hasn't reacted to this at all get out of the line of fire.
There's just not enough of them. Instead, Banderas broods. Then he broods again. I guess he has to brood a lot, because Rodriguez has to justify Hayek's salary. She only appears in flashbacks of the good times, and the time where she is killed (which is repeated a number of times). She's the only beauty in this tough film (there is one other woman, Eva Mendez, but while she's quite beautiful, she's tough as nails), so we need the occasional interlude. When Banderas isn't brooding, Depp is plotting. Occasionally, Defoe is plotting. Even more occasionally, Blades is plotting. Then we get back to Depp plotting. Do you get the idea that there's a lot of plotting going on? Everybody double-crosses at least one other person in this film.
So much for the plot. How's the acting? Given the nature of the film, it's actually quite good. Banderas was born for this role, and it's a shame he doesn't do things like this more often. He might actually make a name for himself. He broods quite well (despite the fact that I think he's made to do too much of it, he's very good at it). Hayek doesn't do anything to really justify her being second billing in the movie, but that's hardly her fault. She's barely in it. Depp is a virtuoso as usual, too bad his character is completely incomprehensible. He acts insane at times (like his first scene which begins a running joke about his favourite dish down in Mexico). He's hardly undercover (he wears a "CIA Agent" t-shirt at one point) and he seems superfluous to the whole thing. It's only Depp's acting which makes his role even watchable. Nobody else is given much to do, though I have to single out Mickey Rourke as really annoying. His character is even worse. That may be because I just don't like watching Rourke, however. I also have to mention Cheech Marin. It seems like he's in every Robert Rodriguez movie (though I don't know about the Spy Kids franchise), and every time he meets a bad end. One's given a bit of hope in this one, but to no avail. He plays his part really well, and I started to feel sorry for him when I realized that there's no way he's going to survive. It's sort of like Steve Buscemi in a Coen Brothers movie: no chance. It's actually quite funny.
If you've followed the El Mariachi series, then it's worth it to pick this one up. The action scenes are worth it if you're already a fan. Just be prepared to be puzzled by the plot. This certainly is not a good place to start your Rodriguez journey, however.
David Roy
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on May 20, 2004
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (Robert Rodriguez, 2003)
Man, I hate it when this happens. I watch a movie, then think about it, then think about it, then think about it some more, and still can't figure out what to say about it. This is the third movie in Robert Rodriguez' cycle about El Mariachi, the hit man forced into the profession who finds he has a taste for it. Antonio Banderas plays the lead again this time, along with a cast of usual suspects. Like the transition between El Mariachi and Desperado (about which fans still argue the remake-sequel question), Rodriguez pulls back in a number of characters from Desperado and has them play different roles (notably Cheech Marin). This one's more obviously a sequel to Desperado than Desperado was to El Mariachi, but there's still a question.
In this one, El Mariachi is hired by a rogue CIA agent named Sands (Johnny Depp) to throw a monkeywrench into a plot to kill the President (Pedro Armendariz, Jr., recently in Casa de los Babys and El Crimen del Padre Amaro); Sands wants the assassination to go off as planned, but wants El Mariachi to kill the assassin after the act. The assassin is General Marquez (Gerardo Vigil), with whom El Mariachi has a long and nasty history. Throw in a spunky, discriminated-against member of the Mexican version of the ATF (Eva Mendes, who finally gets a chance to show she can act), a retired FBI agent Sands brings into play (Ruben Blades), a corrupt drug lord (Willem Dafoe) and his henchman (Mickey Rourke, with a completely unrecognizable deep southern drawl), and a guy playing every side in the game (Danny Trejo), and what you have is an undeniable mess.
Desperado was a mess, too, and it worked gloriously in spite (or because of) its lack of plot or coherence. Things blew up, Salma Hayek was hot, blood flew everywhere, that was pretty much all anyone cared about. Now, almost ten years later, we have Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which seems to be attempting to make up for its predecessor's shortcomings. The problem with this is that no one cared about its predecessor's shortcomings. Blood still flies, and Salma Hayek still looks hot. But there's a plot. In fact, there's too much of a plot. All the twists and turns in here could have easily filled a three-hour film with no room to spare, but Rodriguez crams everything into just over half that. We spend too much of the time just wondering what's going on, rather than spending the time trying to figure out who's double-dealing whom. But with that aside, Johnny Depp is still a fabulous actor to watch, and delivers his material here with a deadpan that does Bogart proud. Willem Dafoe is one of Hollywood's unrecognized geniuses, and I doubt he's had this much fun with any other role in his career, except maybe Boondock Saints. Danny Trejo is always a pleasure to watch. Eva Mendes really CAN act. And I had to rewatch the scenes with Mickey Rourke three times before I got my mind around the fact that that voice was coming out of the raspy, squeaky guy from Angel Heart. And he no longer looks exactly like Bruce Willis, either.
Basically, watch it for the same reasons you watched Desperado. The blood flies (though there's not as much of it this go-round), lots of things blow up, the women are drop-dead gorgeous and like beating guys up, and the plot is, well, existent but incoherent. Sit back, turn your brain off, dig into the popcorn, and enjoy the ride. ***
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on May 16, 2004
After watching Desperado, I was excited to see this movie coming out, especially knowing that Selma Hayek was in this one also. Seeing Johnny Depp joining the film as an American agent promised a good film. Unfortunately, I really don't feel the film quite coalesced into a coherent whole.
Parts of the movie are flashbacks, which prevent us from getting a solid flow. Although flashbacks often work, I never quite got the feeling that all the flashbacks helped us understand what was happening in the present day. We are also introduced to characters, which have their pasts hinted at (like the former FBI agent or the other two members of the mariachi band), but we never get enough of the characters to feel that they fit. They seem more like a quick plot device used to fill a gap.
The movie has Johnny Depp playing the role of an agent trying to stay in control of the situation. His character is tough as well as funny. Some of his lines will stay with you, as the director or writer seemed to make him a second focal point for the movie, which does not seem to have helped.
The movie also has Willem DaFoe, but I really don't feel that I saw his character much. I have the feeling that maybe his big scenes had been cut from the movie. He seems out of place.
If you are a die-hard fan of one of the actors in the film, then I would see it. Otherwise, I would recommend giving this one a slip.
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on April 17, 2004
I'm not usually a big fan of action movies, especially the typical ones centered around a male superhero out to save the world and bag the hot babe at the end.
But like "Desperado" and "El Mariachi," Robert Rodriguez's "Once Upon A Time In America" has all the bang-bang-bang fun without the usual brain-dead male cliches and kindergarten-level myth-making. His protagonist is one bad dude all right but it's all done in a very light-hearted, cartoonish spirit refreshingly devoid of ludicrous moral pretension or pompous overbearing machismo.
Sure, this film has a more convoluted plot with some populist/democratic/nationalistic subtexts if you care to look for them, but why bother when you have all the Rodriguez trademarks there in full force: black absurdist and surrealist humor, gleefully unbelievable shootouts and acrobatic stunts, wry self-parody, ten-kiloton KNOCKOUT BABES (Eva Mendes and Salma Hayek).
It's not as tight as "El Mariachi" (amazing how tight a $7000 budget makes you) or "Desperado" but compared to the usual crop of Hollywood blockbusters, is an effortless standout.
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on April 7, 2004
The joke is wearing thin, folks..What joke? The one about making a b-movie with an expensive cast and then overhyping it to surrealness through trailers and press reviews trying to make it seem as the next "Godfather".
There's no doubt that Rodriguez (that would be the guy who tried to direct this) has a knack for putting together very original action scenes. Then again, I've seen sport-shoe commercials with great action scenes but i don't consider them vehicles of greatness, if you get my drift. Back to Rodriguez, there's a scene towards the beggining of the film, that involves an improbable escape from a window of 5-storey building from 2 people who are chained together. Stretched by the hair to be sure, but nevertheless very imaginative especially when they go crash-landing onto a moving bus passing underneath without even registering a scratch or without losing any make-up.
That's basically how the whole flick flows. Exaggerations upon more exaggerations, shoot'm up and shoot'm down, hey throw in some good ole pointless explosions, let some extras run about while someone from the cast (don't matta who) mows them down in droves, get a nicely tanned cast for the necessary pseudo-sex appeal, and voila! You've got a Mariachi to go with extra cheese please.
Now, if you're the type of viewer that adopts an attitude such as:
-to hell with the plot, lemme just turn off my brain for a couple of hours, and watch a shootathon gone berserko
then this is definetely THE movie for you. You found it, you deserve to watch it. Anybody else however might be slightly dissapointed and just a tad bored. Your age might play a role in the equation as well (but that's not a lock...).
Other than that, forgive me for being ignorant in the art of movie-making, but what is a cast like that doing in an utter b-movie like this??? J.Depp does try but as far as i know (and i dont know much) b-movies don't look good on anybody's resume. A.Banderas does what he does best which is using his hair very effectively, W.Dafoe hides (wisely) behind a mask in the vague hope he won't be recognised, and Mickey Rourke adds another long nail in the coffin of a career buried in the depths of the 80s...
There are other actors too, but they serve as target practice mostly.
What i loved most about this majorly forgettable joke-on-celluloid was the hilarious attempt of the scriptwriter to put some philosophical lines in the mouths of the sufefring actors. The result of this effort was the type of philosophy you hear in toothpaste commercials: "because your teeth deserve a better tomorrow". I do have a lingering suspicion that the scriptwriter was not a Taoist.
Lastly, why 2 stars then for such a wreck? Well, I feel forced to acknowledge that Rodriguez did an incredible job giving the word "exaggeration" a whole new meaning. When i saw J.Depp having gone blind and still outshooting his opponents ..without blinking, i thought "wow, this tops it all"...
A grandiose b-movie yes, that will still fail to make the top-10 of it srespective category.
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on April 3, 2004
I was too lazy to see ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO when it played the Big Screen. Ennui saved me a terrible waste of money.
El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is recruited by CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) to foil the coup being plotted by drug cartel boss Barillo (Willem Dafoe) and corrupt General Marquez (Gerardo Vigil) against the Mexican El Presidente (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.).
Perhaps 5% of the dialogue is in Spanish, the rest English. If the subtitles on my copy of the DVD were "turned on", English text translated the former and, most annoyingly, English text accompanied the latter. Well, duh!
The assassination of a Mexican President would seem to have all the dramatic story potential as a murder of the president of Iceland or Chad - perhaps less. It's no surprise, therefore, that this element of the storyline takes a distant back seat to the real conflict of the story, which is between El Mariachi and Marquez, who, at some point in the past, killed the former's wife (Salma Hayek) and daughter. El Mariachi is a tormented man out to get even.
This film is endlessly and casually violent, and the final body count must lie somewhere between the twentieth century battles of Verdun and Stalingrad.
The only compensation for sitting through this mess is the occasional appearance of the gorgeous Selma Hayek, and the quirky persona given the Sands character by Depp. Among other things, Sands orders carnitas wherever he goes. At one point, after eating a version of the dish so much superior to all others he's tasted to date, he casually kills the chef so, as he puts it, "balance is restored".
To be fair, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is a sequel to EL MARIACHI (1992) and DESPERADO (1995). Perhaps I would better understand this last in the series if were to see the first two. Frankly, I'd rather stick hot needles in my eyes.
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