Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Robert Rodriguez; 8 deleted
scenes with optional commentary; 'Inside Troublemaker Studios'
featurette; 'The Anti-Hero's Journey' featurette; 'Film is Dead:
An Evening with Robert Rodriguez' featurette; 'The Good, The Bad
And The Bloody' FX featurette; 2 short films by Robert Rodriguez;
JOHNNY Depp is the man who can do no wrong at the moment. Having
transformed a potential Box Office dud into one of the hits of
the year, in Pirates of the
Caribbean, he now shamelessly steals the limelight in the
latest Desperado movie, Once Upon A Time in Mexico.
The actor is, once again, on sublime form as a renegade CIA agent
who forces Antonio Banderas vengeful El Mariachi out of
hiding to sabotage an assassination plot against the president
of Mexico, giving the type of performance which transforms what
could have been a routine follow-up into one of the most effortlessly
enjoyable romps of the year.
Once Upon A Time in Mexico is the concluding chapter of Robert
Rodriguezs Mariachi series and is a tribute to the kinds
of movies that inspired the director to become a film-maker, such
as Sergio Leones classic spaghetti westerns,
and George Millers post-apocalyptic adventure, The Road
Yet while the film certainly operates on a vast scale, it ultimately
fails to measure up to the giddy heights set by Leones Dollars
trilogy and occasionally feels like a big, sprawling mess of an
Rodriguez attempts to pack so much into the story that it is
occasionally difficult to keep up, allowing his boyish sense of
adventure to run into overdrive amid an orgy of brilliantly orchestrated
Whether audiences will have a clue what is going on by the time
proceedings reach their extravagant denouement remains to be seen,
for this is one warped thrill-ride of an adventure that succeeds
on sheer bravura alone.
And by keeping its tongue firmly in its cheek, the film never
loses sight of the absurdity of its premise, a ploy which also
works to its advantage.
The plot picks up some time after the events of Desperado, with
El Mariachi now in self-imposed exile, and scarred by personal
tragedy, yet called back into action by Depps scheming agent,
Sands, to work the forthcoming assassination attempt, instigated
by Willem Dafoes cartel kingpin, Barrillo, to his own advantage.
What ensues is an elaborate tale of double cross and deception,
as El Mariachi finds himself caught in the middle of a revolution
in which no one can be trusted - not even the officials - and
everyone has their own agenda.
As convoluted as things become, however, the real joy in Once
Upon A Time lies in the audacity of its set pieces, as well as
the way in which it trades on the familiar.
Rodriguez takes many of the same scenarios from Desperado and
ups the ante considerably, with an escape from a hotel room, involving
Banderas and Salma Hayek, one of many action highlights, as well
as the opening storytelling sequence, in which the legend of El
Mariachi is retold.
He also uses his cast very well, bringing back some actors (who
had previously been killed off), such as Cheech Marin and Danny
Trejo, as well as introducing the more heavyweight likes of Dafoe,
Mickey Rourke and Ruben Blades to add gravitas to proceedings.
And his film also looks terrific, sumptuously shot to make the
most of the Mexican landscapes and sunsets, while also using screen
sirens Hayek and Eva Mendes to up the sexuality.
Yet as good as Banderas, Hayek and Rourke remain, it is Depp
who lives longest in the memory, revelling in the opportunity
to play a character so outrageously bad that audiences cant
help but root for him.
The last half hour, in particular, plays out like a deranged
ballet of operatic gunplay in which Depp takes centre stage. He,
like the film, is a blast.