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Once Upon a Time in Mexico
2003 - R - 102 Mins.
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Producer: Robert Rodriguez, Tony Mark, Luz María Rojas, Sue Jett, Carlos Gallardo
Written By: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes
Review by: Joe Rickey
   
An old-fashioned tale of revenge involving the assassination of a military leader, a CIA agent, and an enigmatic hitman known as El Mariachi, Once Upon a Time in Mexico stars Johnny Depp and Antonio Banderas. The film is written and directed by Robert Rodriguez.

A sluggish pace is something you wouldn’t have expected after seeing the hyper-kinetic ads for Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Yet, that is what you get as the film moves surprisingly slow. The reason for this is that the storyline is supremely convoluted and unnecessarily so. A few of the subplots could have easily been cut from the film without anything substantial lost from the final product and a more clearly defined focus gained. It almost appears that Rodriguez was so enamored with the various characters that he couldn’t bear to edit out anything to do with their assorted subplots, because not only did he direct and write the film, Rodriguez also edited it, did the cinematography for it, composed the musical score, the production and art design, the visual effects, and was also the producer of the film. It’s quite amazing that he is able to do basically every facet of the filmmaking process himself, but Rodriguez could have used some restraint when it came time to edit the film.

He also self-indulges when it comes to the over the top action sequences that are so exaggerated as to become almost cheesy in their audacity. When people are shot in this film by even a pistol they seem to go flying backwards instead of staggering backwards. Witnessing this happening countless times becomes more than a little tiresome. Not unlike the stereotypical action film, Once Upon a Time in Mexico throws countless special effects driven sequences at the viewer and it quickly becomes numbing in this case. No doubt Rodriguez utilized this particular style as a way of hopefully overshadowing the fact that despite its confusing nature, the plot is rather clichéd and more inventiveness when it comes to this end of the film could have improved the film dramatically. The film develops an air of pretension that never quite dissipates.

Not all is lost with the film however. In what could be considered the lead role, Banderas is astutely mysterious and effective as the famed El Mariachi. He is by now so used to playing this type of character that I am convinced that he could do it in his sleep. Johnny Depp is again playing a strange offbeat character as the CIA agent and he does it well as he certainly has made a career out of these sorts of larger than life personalities. It is a little disappointing though that despite prominent billing in the ads, he doesn’t have much more than a cameo in the entire film. If his role is considered a cameo Salma Hayek has a mini cameo, as she appears only in one scene for a brief moment.

Overall, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a mostly tired and overwrought action film that is especially disappointing considering the vast amount of talent behind the project.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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