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Rodriguez is up to his old tricks of doing a dozen different jobs (cameraman, director, editor, composer, etc.) while half the people in front of the cameraman are old favourites from his other films (Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Banderas, Salma Hayek – only briefly in flashback). A couple of the extras on the disc show you how this means he can be more in control of the whole film as he can frame shots with the post-production effects in mind. Just like on the earlier Mariachi and Spy Kids films, the ‘Ten Minute Flick School’ gives you more hard information on film making than other 45-minute documentaries. The tour of Troublemaker Studios is really a tour of Roberto’s garage, because he has had it converted to a state-of-the-art digital editing studio. Another short film has Rodriguez showing how to cook the pork dish, which features heavily in the film – maybe he is trying to make it into a cult thing or something? Anyway, the extras are all watchable, perhaps even more than once, and the examples of how shooting with digital cameras makes it easier to factor in possible CGI effects is, perhaps, the most significant observation.
The action and violence is even more stylised than before. Maybe it’s a good idea to stop the series at three, as ‘Mexico’ reaches an optimum point of complexity and fancy: another sequel that went even further would be overkill. The whole point is that it is not realistic – it is meant to be entertainment not a documentary – but you can take it a bit too far. I think this film goes just far enough.
Did I mention that the film is funny too? The idea of a mariachi bar where men play their guitars, sing and have sex for money, while gorgeous women act like men in a lap-dancing club is the sort of thing that crops up, but is underplayed. It works when its an amusing backdrop to the action, but would not work if it was made to be the whole point of a scene. So, while the action is overplayed for effect, the humour is understated to equally good effect.
It is not necessary to have seen the other Mariachi films before this, although if you have you will get some of the in-jokes and references – but missing those references should not ruin the film for you. Actually, if you have not seen the other films, you might think about buying the box set and watching all three because its only going to set you back £8.50 extra to get El Mariachi and Desperado together with this one.
This film does not go from the sublime to the ridiculous: it is sublime *because* it is ridiculous, and it does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to entertain.
“So you want me to shoot the cook?”,
“No. I’ll shoot the cook. My cars parked out back anyway.”
the shoot-out in the market, with ‘Pistolero’ by Juno Reactor blasting out on the soundtrack.
Actually, there is a plot - too much of it. The various plans and conspiracies of both good guys and bad guys intertwine until no one is quite sure what is going on. Not that anyone cares. The explosions and gun battles come along much too frequently to allow anyone to stop and think about what's going on. It also doesn't help that several of the baddies look very similar. If you love action and mayhem, this film is for you!
For some reason, I thought Once Upon A Time In Mexico would be a sort of homage to the films of Sergio Leone. But there is none of Leone's deliberate pace or careful building of tension here. Rodriguez starts at full speed and rarely lets up. That's not necessarily a criticism, but it's not Leone either.
With Rodriguez, as usual, doing just about everything behind the camera except the catering, it's left to the actors to try to make an impression in front of it. Johnny Depp, not surprisingly, is the most memorable, tossing off one-liners with effortless charm and even throwing in an Oedipus Rex take-off. Willem Dafoe makes a good villain while Mickey Rourke seems to change his character from scene to scene (what is he doing with that dog?). Banderas seems to be playing it all a bit too straight when some more tongue in cheek might have helped. The biggest sin committed by Rodriguez was to recruit Salma Hayek and then hardly use her. What a waste!
Overall, Once Upon A Time In Mexico is an enjoyably mindless romp and it's unlikely that anything else was intended. The DVD is blessed with some equally enjoyable extras - especially the opportunity to watch Rodriguez playing with all his cinematic toys in what he claims used to be his garage. The man has talent and enthusiasm - sometimes one gets the better of the other.
See the flick, eat popcorn, be amazed, scream with delight. It's that kind of film.
The film is Robert Rodriguez's final chapter in the "El Mariachi" saga, completing the trilogy. Antonio Banderas returns as the lone gunman who has a passion for guitars. Unable to escape his horrific past, he gets an opportunity to get revenge against the person who has caused him so much dread. The person who offers him the job is a crooked CIA agent--a man who does not hesitate to get his hands bloody in order to get what he wants. A simple meeting between the two unleashes a complex and even sometimes downright confusing story with twists and turns around every corner. You don't know who is playing who until the very end in this exciting thrill-ride that is both exhilarating and humorous.
I really enjoyed watching "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." I've been so disappointed with some of the most recent action flunkies that have been released in the past few months. It's a highly entertaining movie that resembles a hi-tech western filled with top-notch action sequences that are absolutely exhilarating. The movie is most certainly violent and gory, so it is not recommended for the squeamish. However, I must point out that a good majority of the violent sequences are cartoonish and purposely over-the-top. I also must point out that even though this is the end of a trilogy, it doesn't mean that the only way to enjoy this movie is if you have seen the other two movies, "El Mariachi" and "Desperado." I can say this with confidence, as I have yet to see those two movies (although I did see parts of "Desperado"). This may not be the best one in the series, but I have a feeling it is the most entertaining. It must be said that this film looks BEAUTIFUL, as it was shot in "High Definition." I never thought that digital could ever look better than film, but in this case it most certainly does.
The movie has an impressive roster when it comes to casting. It's been awhile since I've seen so many big names in one movie. You have Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke and William Dafoe. And that's only naming a few. Everybody is really great in their roles, although I have to confess that Johnny Depp is what really makes the movie. He steals every single scene that he is in. His character is a great creation and is a joy to watch. The downside to the movie is that the story tries too hard to be too complex at times. You really are confused through more than a good half of the movie when you first see it. This is in no way a major flaw, but it is a flaw nonetheless.
"Once Upon a Time" is a great time if you're looking for an exciting action-packed event. It's not one to choose if you're looking for a movie with a deeper meaning to it all. This is one to choose if you simply want to have a good time and want to be entertained. This is certainly a film that I will be watching numerous times. The end result is a thrilling joyride from Robert Rodriguez that stands out from most of the other action flicks. Strap in and enjoy the ride. -Michael Crane
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