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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.83%
Worth A Look30.34%
Just Average: 17.24%
Pretty Crappy: 19.31%
Sucks: 8.28%

7 reviews, 103 user ratings

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Once Upon a Time in Mexico
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Fun last chapter of Rodriguez's Mariachi trilogy."
4 stars

"They call him El. As in 'the.'" That's the sort of solemnly funny line you might hear in a Sergio Leone western, and writer-director Robert Rodriguez has explicitly patterned his "Mariachi" trilogy -- 'El Mariachi' (1992), 'Desperado' (1995), and now 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico' -- on Leone's groundbreaking movies.

Rodriguez isn't out to break ground, though; he's content to throw a party on it. It's somewhat funny that after eleven years and ten movies, Rodriguez is still working the same hyperkinetic, B-movie side of the street; he aims low and hits, but he hits with style and grace. What's more, he gives us a final chapter without any gravitas whatsoever -- it's as fast and unpretentious as the $7,000 El Mariachi was, and at times you even forget that El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is in it.

Like Leone's "Man with No Name" trilogy, Rodriguez's three "Mariachi" movies share a lead character but not much else; it's as if God hit the restart button and gave the hero a slightly different backstory. In short, you can enjoy Once Upon a Time in Mexico without having seen the other two. (The other two are self-contained, too; I think Rodriguez, and Leone before him, did that by design so that people could watch them in any order and not get lost.) These movies unfold in their own sandy, ornery universe, where firearms perform a kind of propulsive magic. Defying the laws of physics, men are hit with bullets and fly backwards well past any credible theory of momentum. There's no pain in Rodriguez's violence -- he turns it into athletic, action-figure fantasy.

This time, El Mariachi is hired by a shady CIA agent (Johnny Depp) to kill a drug lord (Willem Dafoe) who's out to kill the president of Mexico. There you have it: the good (Banderas), the bad (Depp), and the ugly (Dafoe). Depp's performance here, as a morally neutral and ruthless agent who loves disguises, is consistent with the work he's been doing lately, in Pirates of the Caribbean and others. Depp's character has a false third arm he uses for no particular reason, and he has a thing about trying the pork dish in every dive in Mexico. In Depp's hands, this unpredictable "law enforcer" becomes an eccentric who, we feel, joined the CIA solely to broaden his experience of weirdness. He's certainly the hippest presence to adorn a Rodriguez film since George Clooney commandeered a Winnebago in From Dusk till Dawn.

Rodriguez indulges in an overabundance of plot, with characters double-crossing each other in what seems like every scene. He brings in Eva Mendes as a questionable cop and Mickey Rourke, looking like a failed wax sculpture of himself, as Dafoe's conflicted American goon. We get flashbacks reuniting Banderas with Salma Hayek, who shows a previously unacknowledged flair with throwing knives; the pair undergo a setpiece worthy of vintage Spielberg, in which they're chained together by the wrists and have to negotiate a five-story building down to the street to escape assassins. Ex-con Danny Trejo, he of the asphalt face, is back in Rodriguez World as a grim killer who gets that "El" line.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico couldn't be more lightweight, but heaviness was never the point or the promise of these movies. For a grand total of $37,007,000 -- about a quarter of what it costs to make one typical Hollywood action film that isn't a quarter as fun as this one -- Rodriguez has made an entire trilogy of inventive, restlessly entertaining action flicks. (He must also be the first director to release two trilogy-enders that opened at #1 at the box-office in the same summer -- Spy Kids 3D being the other.)

This happily productive filmmaker works out of his own private digital Xanadu, and does as much of it himself as he can get away with -- editing, cinematography, music, and probably waxing Salma Hayek's post-'Frida' eyebrows, too. Rodriguez has yet to make anything remotely artistic, but he also has yet to make anything remotely boring.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=8131&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/24/07 21:00:39
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User Comments

3/24/12 GEORGE B. FEIST LOVE THE HUMOR...over the top and actors have fun 4 stars
11/08/11 Jeff Wilder Hayek underused and the plot is overstuffed. Good action though. 3 stars
9/06/10 BC Entertaining the first time, but when you view it a 2nd time, you realize how dumb it is 3 stars
3/25/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess Mind-blowing action and funny dialogue 4 stars
7/21/08 the dork knight Story is pretty terrible, but it doesnt matter because the cast rocks 4 stars
2/17/08 SamanthaP super bloody and violent and awesome, and Johnny was hot!!! 4 stars
10/28/07 Hester Less style and tightness than desperado, some cool scenes 2 stars
10/01/07 Double M A Rodriguez movie that has Banderas, Depp, Dafoe, Rourke (!) should be better. still, fun.. 3 stars
1/25/07 Artist Bill Silly putty is more entertaining... 2 stars
10/29/06 AJ Muller Admittedly all over the friggin' place but damned entertaining and a hell of a good time. 4 stars
7/22/06 Agent Sands One of Depp's most entertaining characters. 4 stars
7/01/06 R.W.Welch Desperado on a big budget. Moves well, good stunt work. 3 stars
6/26/06 Ashley Hinz Horrible excuse for a movie. 1 stars
6/15/06 Michele loved it 5 stars
6/12/06 Indrid Cold Why have Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe in your movie if they don't do anything? 3 stars
5/25/06 William Goss Has its moments and performances, but underwhelming on the visceral front. 3 stars
5/18/06 drydock54321 this is not for me 2 stars
4/29/06 RK Rodriguez's movies are always stylish and entertaining 3 stars
2/20/06 Striker An insult to Desperado(1995) 1 stars
10/31/05 missjie86 Throw logic and reason out the window and just enjoy the ride. 4 stars
10/12/05 Maddison I have seen this movie over a million times and it took my breath away. i loved Johnny depp 5 stars
10/09/05 Agent Sands Rodriguez's best movie, hands down. Depp steals every scene, even the ones he isn't in. 4 stars
10/08/05 Wisamane Dont listin to the people under me, this movie is incredible with the action it provides! 5 stars
8/15/05 me bandage man is sexy, i also happen to be mentally ill 5 stars
8/11/05 Kelly there is not enough space to tell how awful it was!i walked out!!!Go rent Desperado instead 1 stars
6/21/05 Agent Sands (re-post) lol im jk this movie is GAY just like me 1 stars
6/08/05 Naruto Absolute waste of time 1 stars
3/15/05 Andrea Worst Depp movie I've ever seen. Plot is way too confusing. Who is who?? 2 stars
2/22/05 malcolm where the hell was salma hayek 2 stars
1/01/05 Fred An empty, nonsense movie 1 stars
11/21/04 psycho black dwarf Bad idea to draw comparison to Leone w/ this hohum hocum. 3 stars
11/13/04 ELI This movie was DRY! Needed more blood. 3 stars
9/04/04 AL No plot, no characters. Lots of shooting. crap 1 stars
8/24/04 Agent Sands Rodriguez's hands-down best movie. This is Depp's best role to date, hence my name. 5 stars
8/21/04 ALDO way 2 confusing...way to many characters..disappointing 2 stars
8/18/04 courtney lost me during the movie but still good action 4 stars
7/19/04 Ionicera I didn't get what was going on but I was also playing Isketch at the same time 3 stars
7/07/04 Denise Johnny Depp is terrific, brilliant, and funny 5 stars
7/01/04 DM Nothing special, but enjoyable enough 4 stars
6/25/04 Alex weirdly good 5 stars
6/21/04 milehigh Proves it doesn't take $100 Million and a crew of thousands to create garbage. 2 stars
6/19/04 zoila were was film 3 stars
5/05/04 J.Peckerfoot visually superb,its fun,it ain't gonna change the face of cinema.. 4 stars
5/01/04 Ray Amazing in a rare way!! 5 stars
4/06/04 yosharto Depp n Banderas were way hot!even wen eyes were takin outt!sharting!shoud have been it dis! 4 stars
3/27/04 Kev *Yawn* What is this crap? 2 stars
3/24/04 Margie another great character for depp. But still weird. i guess if you go along with it it's OK 4 stars
3/16/04 CoLLeeN when was done i wanted to watch it again to try and catch what i missed.then i thought why? 4 stars
3/09/04 Ash Yet again, Depp IS the film! 5 stars
3/08/04 bsho76 Dull, confusing...Depp is the only interesting character 2 stars
3/08/04 john bale Mainly nonsense, and waste of talent, with complicated plot, but a bit of fun anyhow 3 stars
3/02/04 bob best movie ever seen watch it 5 stars
2/22/04 Gray fun to watch but confusing 4 stars
2/20/04 Denise Duspiva Funny 5 stars
2/19/04 Agent Sands In my top 5! Action, Depp, script, music, everything, deserve a STANDING OVATION!! 5 stars
2/15/04 Doug Gump Just awful -- if they advertised that Johnny Depp's eye are bored out, no one would bother. 1 stars
2/15/04 kgpian hard to follow... but simply superb 5 stars
2/15/04 sabujakash just watch it 5 stars
2/15/04 avradip breathstopping 5 stars
2/15/04 Clint White Hard to figure out what the hell is going on here 2 stars
2/11/04 jj It's a fun & intertaining movie with, sometimes, good action. 3 stars
2/09/04 Jingo P. Low character developement and overly-confusing storyline, but STILL LOVED IT! 4 stars
2/07/04 hooters It's very entertaining, great acting, beautiful music 5 stars
1/31/04 George great film and great music 5 stars
1/25/04 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) One of my top 5 FAVORITE movies. It's the masterpiece of Depp AND Rodriguez. 5 stars
1/22/04 Betty White Nice visual style and colorful performances. 4 stars
1/02/04 A F Depp rules. This film was strangly appealing to me. 5 stars
12/23/03 Cheryl Mayfield Much sound and fury; little else. 2 stars
12/20/03 john title is supposed to be an hoomage to Leone - well the movie sure isn't - actually boring 2 stars
12/01/03 Kooler Jennifer Aniston's old hair-do looks great on Banderas 3 stars
11/14/03 Ultron Banderas gives the perofrmance of his life in this entertaining film. 4 stars
11/07/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) I changed my mind. Rourke is OK too. You notice I changed my name again, b/c Depp KICKS ASS 5 stars
10/28/03 Paola Its cool. I wnat it on DVD NOW!!! 5 stars
10/23/03 Ann This one is worth it for some of the stunts. Depp saves it. "Johnny Saves" 4 stars
10/13/03 Lord Jiggy A bunch of quick cuts in search of coherence...whole thing should have been about Depp. 3 stars
10/10/03 Scarlett Fun! Loved this film but w/o Depp it would've bombed. Watch it for Depp and for the action. 5 stars
10/07/03 Azeneth I haven´t seen it, but I certainly will just to watch Depp and Banderas. 4 stars
10/06/03 ownerofdajoint saave your money;this thing is like a cartoon amok with no plot readily evident 2 stars
10/04/03 LM as bad as it gets 1 stars
10/01/03 snowconehead Fun, but gratuitous. Innocent people die every 3 minutes. Depp is awesome. 4 stars
9/30/03 MA Designs the movie was very good 4 stars
9/26/03 Mr. Hat Mariachi was good, Desperado was great, Mexico is 2 awesome. ALL except Rourke are GREAT. 5 stars
9/25/03 malcolm w/o awesome-as-usual Depp, this movie would've been unwatchable 2 stars
9/23/03 disappointed Thouroughly disappointed by this effort. RR could've done A LOT better. 2 stars
9/20/03 Lord Chu Simply AWESOME. I'm going to watch it again and again. 5 stars
9/20/03 Jack Bourbon Wow what a surprise 5 stars
9/19/03 greenmonster no one carried this film, it was miserable, I want my $6.50 back 1 stars
9/18/03 daryl M Depp carried the film 5 stars
9/18/03 ajay it was kinda cheesy... There were cool moments, but overall pretty crappy. 2 stars
9/17/03 karmap awesome 5 stars
9/17/03 Wolf Occasional flashes of artistic genius, but needs an EDITOR 3 stars
9/15/03 Wendy Agreed. "Plot" hard to follow, but Depp is quite enjoyable. Worth seeing. 4 stars
9/15/03 Worthy Slacker Eradically cut. Too many subplots that "El Marichi" gets lost. Saved by a kinetic Depp! 4 stars
9/14/03 Koitus Agree that the movie was WAY too many sub-plots. Unrealistic church shootem up scene also! 3 stars
9/14/03 jawsboy24 Average. Decent acting, but the action is mostly dull. Worth a look, but not great. **'s 3 stars
9/14/03 LoudChris Video isn't even close to film, but damn that was a rad flick. 5 stars
9/14/03 nick2k way too many subplots....that was its biggest flaw. no 'desperado', but an 'end' it is. 3 stars
9/13/03 escher Maybe not a "good" movie, but easily one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in awhile. 5 stars
9/13/03 Nicole Plots not developed - can be hard to follow. Great performance by Depp 4 stars
9/13/03 KING EDWARD what kind of a faggot name is starhawk? i hope you die - the movie is great 5 stars
9/13/03 Starhawk This is the most awful drivel I've seen this year. Terrible action sequences and lame plot 1 stars
9/12/03 michaelb14 enjoyable but a bit disjointed, seemed rushed, but overall a good asskicking film 4 stars
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  12-Sep-2003 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jan-2004



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