Once upon a Time in Mexico Reviews
Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the third entry into Robert Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy, his own equivalent of Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy (1964 - 1966). Both trilogies present a violent western setting and get larger in scale with each entry, meaning that Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the most ambitious film in the series. This proves both beneficial and detrimental to the film in parts, and audiences are likely to find themselves divided as to which side they lean towards. El Mariachi was a thoroughly simple film with a self-aware basic premise while Desperado was a more energetic exploitation of a larger budget. With Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the budget jumps to all new heights and so does the ambition. This means a larger-scale story, more characters and more fancy set pieces. Alas, it detracts from the simplicity that made the prior two entries so great.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico is packed full of so many characters who all play different roles in a complicated story which still wants to fit into a mere 97 minute running time. At heart the film is a simple western story, but it smothers any such simplicity beneath an abundance of characters who all have their own story to them. As far as I can ascertain, every character has the ambition to kill someone as their main goal. That makes it easier to embrace, but even then the experience is proudly overblown and convoluted. Attempting to fit everyone into a singular story means that the Mariachi who lad the first two stories becomes a supporting character in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. There are several interesting characters in the film, but El Mariachi is the original hero and his treatment in this film is likely to prove less-than satisfying to fans. The man has a rich tale of vengeance in his part of the narrative due to his wife Carolina and their daughter being murdered, but this is reduced to a modicum of simple flashbacks and action scenes with no moments of real characterization. Then again there is really no depth in the film and it doesn't pretend like there is any since it is far more focused on being a fun experience. There is no denying that it succeeds in doing so, but audiences have to disregard any hope of tracking the story if they wish to embrace the director's intentions.
As a straight up fan or Robert Rodriguez, I had no problem doing this. The more intellectual parts of my brain desired more, but it doesn't take a genius to tell that Robert Rodriguez does not make films to challenge audience intelligence. He makes them on the basis of his own technical expertise so that viewers can have a fun, violent experience. That's exactly what Once Upon a Time in Mexico is, and it's a glorious one which has the serious nature of a solid action film with a consistent humourous feeling that offers nostalgia to Mexploitation cinema. The jump made from El Mariachi to Desperado goes to all new heights in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and while characterization does not make the same leap there is no shortage of action-fuelled creativity which is what the audiences have come to see. The scenery for the film provides a flawless Mexican backdrop full of interesting buildings and an ideal western colour scheme, and the cinematography manages to capture the large scale of it all very nicely. The use of close-ups also manages to provide a direct perspective on the facial expressions of the actors which helps to carry over the intensity of their performances. The use of these techniques comes in handy during the action scenes which use an endless array of shootouts and explosions to keep the glory of the film burning. Once Upon a Time in Mexico uses brilliantly stylish action to boast what the director can do with a huge budget, and while there are moments where the quick cuts can be a little too fast it is hardly major enough to elicit any real complaints. Much of the film is cut together like a music video which is distinctive of Robert Rodriguez, and the musical score maintains a perfectly culturally relevant feeling with high-octane energy to support it all. Once Upon a Time in Mexico carries a soundtrack with the use of actual Mariachi music crafted in an ideal action form, and so its very much a treat on the ears as well as the eyes.
Even without complete understanding of the story, the script in Once Upon a Time in Mexico features enticing characters. Nobody is a law-abider, and everyone has their own reasons why. However, they keep this a secret and simply have fun with a sadistic exploration of their own power. This ensures that almost every character is interesting in some form, and it offers the cast a chance to exercise their natural talents in roles which really demand it.
Johnny Depp is the show-stealer in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The Academy Award-nominee is an actor of unrelenting notoriousness, so seeing him in a mercilessly commercial vehicle like Once Upon a Time in Mexico is an interesting change of pace. It is a role built for him as it is not so much a deep and complex character as it is a simple man of crime who needs the right actor to fuel the part. Johnny Depp is the perfect actor because he speaks his words with flawless confidence which just commands the role, and he is able to oscillate between joking and threatening without ever losing sight of his serious nature. Johnny Depp sinks deeply into his role and captivates audiences into loving him regardless of his merciless nature, and as the film goes on he manages to provide more and more comedic material while retaining tension in the role, proving his worth as a legitimate actor, many of comedy, action hero and threatening villain all in the confines of a single film. Johnny Depp portrays one of the most entertaining characters to ever come out of a Robert Rodriguez film, and its really one of his most entertaining roles.
Antonio Banderas is solid once again. Despite the fact that El Mariachi has minimized relevance in Once Upon a Time in Mexico which reduces the exposure we get to the man's talents, Antonio Banderas once again brings along the raw intense passion to the role. As a result, he is a merciless action hero and a suave man of seductive charm all over again. There isn't much new introduced to the character, but Antonio Banderas' natural charms do a service to the film and its fans by showing his remarkable physical energy and the intense chemistry he shares with his surrounding cast.
Willem Dafoe is the third standout of Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Though he is one villain of many in the story, Willem Dafoe is an actor with a legacy for portraying twisted and creepy characters. Once Upon a Time in Mexico capitalizes on this and puts him in the role of the powerful Armando Barillo. Willem Dafoe conveys a fearless sadism in his part, and the creepy smile he brings along leaves audiences wondering what sick and twisted thoughts are going on inside his head. Willem Dafoe's small role in Once Upon a Time in Mexico is another reminder of his natural skill for antagonism, and amid many bad guys he stands as one of the more memorable.
Salma Hayek's role in the story is unexpectedly minimal, but her determined physical energy makes her a
worthwhile addition to the film. Danny Trejo is a perfectly cast villain as always and its great to see Mickey Rourke return to mainstream cinema with the natural flow of line delivery and confidence which made him a star in the first place. Cheech Marin is also a welcome cast member as he is in any Robert Rodriguez film.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico may be a change of formula for the series which comes with more cast members than story development, but its extensively talented actors and high-voltage stylish direction from Robert Rodriguez makes it a climactic finale for the Mariachi Trilogy.
Saw this on 9/12/15
A lesser sequel to Desperado, but one with Depp as the saving grace in a character and mannerism that's memorable. The film has some well shot fight sequences in the first half , but towards the end, it feels rushed off and scenes without Depp feel empty and pointless. There is not much of a plot in here and at times a few of the fast editing is simply irritating.
"Once Upon A Time In Mexico" was written, produced, edited, cinematographied, scored, and directed by the one man army Robert Rodriguez. It is the third and final film in Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy, and is a sequel to "El Mariachi" and "Desperado". While the mentioned movies hold its own wihtin the action genre, "Once Upon A Time In Mexico" is just a bleak over the top flick with a star spangled cast that really doesn´t add anything to the film. The plot is messy and the desperation of making crazy cartoony action sequences kills the general vibe and it becomes just too much in my eyes. It´s not entertaining or cool. And Johnny Depp´s "strange" characters were tiresome already back then and by adding ridiculous dialogue to his Sands it hardly helps. "Once Upon A Time In Mexico" has an inconsistent plot, horrible dialogue and pretty terrible acting. Nah, this was a missed swing from Rodriguez.
Ok to watch.
After the events of "Desperado", El Mariachi is contacted by a CIA agent called Sands who assigns him the suicide task to stop an overthrown of Mexico´s President.
The Mariachi Trilogy has been known for being campy, fun and exaggerated films so Robert Rodriguez decided to end his attempt/version of "The Dollars Trilogy" by making an epic conclusion but the result was less than stellar. "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" counts with all the fun/characteristic elements of its predecessor- The campy vibe, Rodriguez energetic/improvised directing is as good as last time, the inventive/over the top action sequences, acting that is fun to watch, and gorgeous locations- but this final installment takes them to a new level of absurdity by introducing a ridiculously overstuffed plot that takes away the charm of its predecessors, unnecessary characters, a handful of subplots that go nowhere, comedy that manages to get some laughs, bizarre and questionable choices, a laughable attempt to add some drama into this insane comedy/action film, a lackluster finale that's not worth all the buildup and El Mariachi is completely overshadowed by every character in this film, thus making this film a pointless addition to the "Mexico Trilogy". But even with all those issues, "Once Upon a Time" manages to remain fun throughout its running time, even if the quality is inferior compared to the first couple instalments of this trilogy.
"Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is straightforward fun and entertaining mess of a movie. In my opinion this is the weakest instalment of this fun trilogy but if you enjoy the last films you will definitely like this film more than I did. An average, mindless and creative action "flick" that's charming throughout its running time.
If your gonna direct an epic in scope movie about politics, CIA, and cartels. At least spend some money and make it look like a Hollywood film. No, explosions and slow mo dont do that automatically. The visuals had no weight/ It felt cheap and rushed. I know thats Rodriguez's thing, but it didn't work here.
Pass this one unless your a diehard Rodriguez fan.