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3.7 out of 5 stars
Once Upon A Time In Mexico [DVD]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 9 June 2004
There are some great extras on the DVD. Perhaps most interesting of all is the one where director Robert Rodriguez gives a 10-minute masterclass on how to achieve convincing special effects, on a budget, and on time. But the skilful use of camera angles, sewn together with the computer rendering Rodriguez trades so well in, says a lot about the style of the film.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico is judderingly fast paced. It's like a small car, hurtling round a long bend, the dashboard shaking, only just managing to hold the road. The style is so quick that it threatens to leave you behind, not caring, not getting involved. It's a technical masterpiece of sorts, but that won't get the juices flowing. But then, it's a very, very cool film, which can go a long way when it's done with such energy. Just look at Kill Bill Vol. 1.
The main reason to watch is Jonny Depp, who yet again turns in a twitchy, off-centre performance that you can't help but love. He's a CIA agent in Mexico, fomenting political intrigue one minute, killing innocent bystanders the next. Antonio Banderas is El Mariachi, the guitar-toting assassin with an impressive line in brooding regret. Quite what they are both up to is a bit of a mystery, but it involves the new President of Mexico, a planned military coup and some plastic surgery. Also, everyone wants to kill everyone else.
If the plot doesn't hang together - and it doesn't - the performance of Depp and the action set pieces more than make up for it. It is filmmaking with a sense of fun and enjoyment. This is most certainly not a Mexican standoff. More a Mexican pile-on, and it's none the worse for that.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on 15 November 2003
Once Upon A Time in Mexico is the third film in Robert Rodriguez's 'El Mariachi' Trilogy. Throughout all three films, the music has played a large part to the atmosphere of the film (although more so in the latter two films). With many of the cast of Once Upon A Time In Mexico being musicians in their own rights, many of the cast have opted to contribute to the soundtrack. Salma Hayek wrote and sang the vocals on 'Siente Mi Amor' and Johnny Depp actually composed a whole piece for his character entitles 'Sands Theme'
The highlights of this CD are 'Malaguena', 'Yo Te Quiero' (used in a famous advert if i'm not mistaken), the excellent 'Traeme Paz' 'El Mariachi' and 'Siente Mi Amor'.
The more obscure of music coming in this album in the form of the excellent 'Pistolero' and the track 'Me Gustas Tu', which unfortunately for any spanish speakers out there does contain some of the worst lyrics ever written.
Another unfortunate point is that it doesn't contain the majority of the excellent guitar parts played by Antonio Banderas. However, don't let that put you off, it really is an excellent CD.
Overall, this CD is an essential purchase if you are a fan of Spanish/Latin style music and appreciate the style of spanish guitar music. Also, it is worth buying if you have watched the films and enjoyed the music contained within them. 4/5 Stars.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2004
If you're looking for an action extravaganza with an incredible punch to it, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is the trip for you. Is it a Shakespearian masterpiece? Of course not. Is it a shoot-'em-up and go-for-broke adventure filled with power and entertainment? Heck, yeah! This is a film that proves to be a good time--especially for those who want a real action movie that has a unique touch to it. While it may be over-the-top at times, it's a breath of fresh air for those who have been disappointed with some of the latest action blunders.
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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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Everyone talked about the complicated plot of this film but I just assumed they were exaggerating for effect. I started to watch and could see that there was a bit of double-crossing going on, but nothing anyone with a bit of intelligence couldn’t follow. And then, right when I was at my smuggest, the plot took a 90-degree left-turn, disappeared into a tunnel and left me trying to catch up. So, yes, the film is nonsense, but it really doesn’t matter because its fantastic nonsense: great to look at, exciting, another top-notch soundtrack, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously at all.
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.
Best line:
“So you want me to shoot the cook?”,
“No. I’ll shoot the cook. My cars parked out back anyway.”
Best scene:
the shoot-out in the market, with ‘Pistolero’ by Juno Reactor blasting out on the soundtrack.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2004
Well, if Robert Rodriguez wanted an explosive finale to his Mariachi trilogy, he certainly got one - with "explosive" being the operative word. There is more gunfire and explosions in the running time of this film than there was in the entire Iraq war (maybe Saddam sold his WMD to Rodriguez). This is both the virtue and the major vice of the flick - why have plot or characterisation when you can just blow everybody up?
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.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The story behind "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is that when Robert Rodriguez made "Desperado" Quentin Tarantino told the young director that he was clearly following in the footsteps of spaghetti western director Sergio Leone. Whereas Leone had made "A Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More" before moving up to the epic scale of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West," Rodriguez had made "El Mariachi" and "Desperado" and now needed to move up to the big leagues and make a film that would have to be called "Once Upon a Time in Mexico."
This 2003 film does have some similarities to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," if you want to think of El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas), Sands (Johnny Depp), and Barillo (Willem Dafoe) in those three roles. However, there is a hidden film between "Desperado" and this one that involves the death of El Mariachi's wife, Carolina (Salma Hayek), that we see revealed in flashbacks. "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" has CIA Agent Sands compelling El Mariachi to thwart the assassination of the President of Mexico (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) set up by drug lord Barillo.
Wanting to come up with his own version of "Once Upon a Time in the West" is a big order because that is my all time favorite western, and certainly Rodriguez loves to have the camera explore every part of Danny Trejo's face the way Leone liked to pan from a wide angle shot to an extreme close up of Charles Bronson's face. But inviting a direct comparison between the two films points out the one fault that Rodriguez has in this career is his story construction. Certainly you have to admire all the things Rodriguez does behind the camera, from holding the steady cam, writing the original music, designing the production, supervising the special effects, and editing the film (you wonder sometimes how he can stand to let anybody else do anything on his side of the camera). But the technical virtuosity that he displays does not extend to coming up with a story worthy of the epic scale.
In other words, Robert Rodriguez needs to find his Bernardo Bertolucci (or even his Dario Argento) to help him come up with a story worthy of this talents, like Leone did on "Once Upon a Time in the West," the ultimate operatic Western. Rodriguez has a visual style and flair that few can duplicate, and the extras on this DVD, such as "Ten Minute Flick School" and his commentary track, are clear evidence of his passion for making films. Nobody else has filmmaking in their blood the way Rodriguez does, but he really needs somebody to sit down and help him hammer out his scripts (and apparently his dialogue given how often Depp went off on his own according to the commentary track).
This does not take away from enjoying the cinematic style of "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," or the fun Rodriguez has with his HD camera as he "chopped, shot and scored" this film. He can do better and hopefully he will, but there is no denying the pure joy of filmmaking that he exhibits. No wonder the people who work with him keep coming back for more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
El Mariachi is called back into action again by Johnny Depp's devious CIA man, and is soon fighting against a coup attempt against the local president by a coalition of a crime lord and an army general that has got to big for his boots.

Antonio Banderas steps straight back into the Mariachi role, as if he had never been away. Johnny Depp has fun as the CIA agent, in a role reminiscent of Jack Sparrow, and Willem Dafoe is an odd but effective choice as the crime lord, bringing a real hint of menace to the role. Mickey Rourke as Billy was truly excellent.

Despite a great cast, the film has some serious flaws. In short it is too ambitious, and jut doesn't manage to live up to its ambition. There is a lot going on here, lots of subplots and ancillary characters, told with a mixture of flash back and straight narration. There are still plenty of thrills and spills along the way, as various characters wreak mayhem all around them with a variety of Rodriguez's trademark impossible weapons, and in the main this is an entertaining romp. But it is just a bit of a mish mash at times, and for that 4 stars only.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
El Mariachi is called back into action again by Johnny Depp's devious CIA man, and is soon fighting against a coup attempt against the local president by a coalition of a crime lord and an army general that has got to big for his boots.

Antonio Banderas steps straight back into the Mariachi role, as if he had never been away. Johnny Depp has fun as the CIA agent, in a role reminiscent of Jack Sparrow, and Willem Dafoe is an odd but effective choice as the crime lord, bringing a real hint of menace to the role. Mickey Rourke as Billy was truly excellent.

Despite a great cast, the film has some serious flaws. In short it is too ambitious, and jut doesn't manage to live up to its ambition. There is a lot going on here, lots of subplots and ancillary characters, told with a mixture of flash back and straight narration. There are still plenty of thrills and spills along the way, as various characters wreak mayhem all around them with a variety of Rodriguez's trademark impossible weapons, and in the main this is an entertaining romp. But it is just a bit of a mish mash at times, and for that 4 stars only.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 March 2004
What an absolutely cracking film. Not for a long time have I seen such a film of such scorching pace and subtle humour. It's so beautifully shot and the soundtrack is wicked, really quirky and bizarre. I'm not exactly a fan of Iglesias jnr., neither his music nor his melodramatic music videos (blehh!!!) but my word...when he pops out from behind that pillar brandishing a gun in each hand? Well now, he's just gaining all kinds of credibility.
Somebody said this film wasn't for girls? Whatever, moron. What kind of girls do you hang out with? I watched this film with a unisex room full of students and we clapped and whooped with glee all the way through. Convoluted plot? Bah!! Get a grip, watch this film and grin as it shoots its way into your top ten best movies EVER. Bang Bang Bang!!!
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on 20 August 2009
REVIEWED VERSION: 2003 Sony Pictures US Blu-Ray

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Rubén Blades, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Leonardi, Pedro Armendáriz Jr.

SYNOPSIS

El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) lives a peaceful, reclusive life after his love Carolina (Salma Hayek) was killed by General Marquez (Gerardo Vigil). When he is violently torn out of his reclusion, he is drawn into a coup d'état with CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) stirring the pot and Mariachi is given not only the chance for venegance, but also to save the republic.

THE PROS & CONS

As the name implies, this final part in Rodriguez' Mariachi trilogy was supposed to be his version of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, a very ambitious plan indeed.
And at a first glance, there is a lot happening in this film: a coup d'état leading to a revolution, a corrupt CIA agent stirring the put, an avenging musician (not playing the harmonica but the guitar) all mixed into a wild cocktail of craziness. If you are expecting an equally brilliant film as ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST however, you will be gravely disappointed. ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO can't even live up to DESPERADO, but it does come in second of the trilogy.
I do not like the humorous overtone of ALL of Rodriguez' movies (and Tarantino's movies as well). I know I am the minority, but I perfer my movies dark and dead serious. In comes the goofball Captain Sparrow, I mean Agent Sands (played by Johnny Depp). I like Depp and he plays Sands incredibly well, but this character is too slapstick.
The acting is top notch here, Antonio Banderas makes for a brilliant anti-hero, his mariachi definitely is one of my favorite movie characters of all time, Willem Dafoe as Barillo is excellent, this man is just a brilliant actor! Pedro Armendáriz Jr. as El Presidente was fantastic (his final scene is a hoot!), and it is always a pleasure to see Eva Mendes and Mickey Rourke. Unfortunately Salma Hayek's role is rather short due to her demise (Banderas beginning to be like Paul Kersey with his luck with women). Ruben Blades as retired/not retired Jorge also deserves to be mentioned, good performance here as well.
The soundtrack is the best in any Rodriguez film, especially the title sequence. I also enjoyed the numerous well-choreographed shootouts, Rodriguez keeps the action scenes interesting and full of new ideas (watch for the fantastic motorcycle chase to the tunes of "Pistolero").
There are several moments where you watch the movie in awe, moments of brilliance and moments where Redriguez manages to screw up so bad, you'd just like to slap him. And that is the biggest problem with MEXICO, this movie had the potential to be great, but it doesn't use the potential. Don't get me wrong, MEXICO is not a bad movie at all, it is a good movie, I liked it a lot, it just builds up so much within the first 10 - 15 mins. but it fails to follow through. Mariachi is much cooler and darker than in DESPERADO, I liked this because after all that happened to him he would be much darker.
Good and entertaining end of the Mariachi trilogy, not as good as the series' pinnacle DESPERADO and surely no comparison to ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.

ON A SIDE NOTE

- Johnny Depp improvised many lines where he was originally intended to swear

- the script only consisted of 45 pages

- the hotel escape was originally intended for Desperado

BLU-RAY DETAILS

Feature running time: 101:42 mins. (uncut)
Rating: R (MPAA) / 15 (BBFC)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 / 16:9
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1, French DTS-HD MA 5.1, Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1, Spanish 5.1
Subtitles: English HoH, French, Portuguese and Spanish
Extras: Audio Commentary, Ten Minute Flick School Featurette (9:04), Inside Troublemaker Studios Featurette (11:21), Ten Minute Cooking School Featurette (5:48), Film Is Dead: An Evening With Robert Rodriguez Featurette (13:17), The Anti-Hero's Journey Featurette (18:02), The Good, The Bad And The Bloody: Inside KNB FX Featurette (19:02), 8 Deleted Scenes (7:24): Sands Phones Dead Man, Mariachi In The Desert, Sands Outside Restaurant, Goat Milk, Cold, Sands On Internet, One Arm, Jorge, Spy Dog, The Cutting Room Interactive tool, Movie IQ, BD-Live
Region: Region Free

Picture quality: 4/5
Audio quality: 4/5
Extras: 3/5

The picture quality is on the borderline to great - in close-ups you can see every pore on the actors' faces - and so is the audio in glorious DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless, it is definitely worth the upgrade from DVD, which already was looking good. The extras are pretty average, we get an audio commentary which is pretty much standard nowadays, a few featurettes that you'll probably just watch once (if at all) and some deleted scenes, pretty unspectacular.
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