Once Upon a Time in Mexico is one of those very odd movies that I love for a ton of reasons, most of which really have nothing to do with the movie itself. It took me forever to actually sit down and watch this third entry (actually the forth if you count the fact that the third will probably never be filmed) in the Mariachi trilogy after missing it's initial run in theaters. It had been on the Netflix queue for ages and I'd heard nothing good about it from friends so it actually ended up arriving by accident when I forgot to rearrange the order of the waiting movies.
I'm a pretty big fan of Rodriguez, and the Mariachi flicks in particular because these were some of the first flicks that I watched in high school that opened the door to new and interesting movies I'd never considered watching before. The first two flicks, El Mariachi and Desperado, were also some of the first DVDs I'd ever purchased, not to mention some of my first experiences with DVD special features. After listening to the commentaries on both flicks I was forever spoiled by Rodriguez's amazing talent for swift, insightful, entertaining and just plain awesome commentary and have since never quite found anything that lives up to it.
The first time I finally sat down and watched it I wasn't sure what to think. On the one hand, it was visually interesting, one of the prettiest films I've seen shot on an HD digital camera, and the acting and character work was awesome (with a particularly great performance from Johnny Depp as Agent Sands, the Pureco Pibil loving, double crossing, crazed CIA agent.) Hell, I even enjoyed Enrique Iglesias. The story on the other hand was so convoluted and confusing that I was lost through most of the film. It doesn't help that the film is not a direct sequel to Desperado, instead it's the story that takes place after what would be sequel, and only makes a few flashbacks to the un-filmed third installment. Add to this the fact that the Mariachi, once again portrayed by Antonio Banderas (who replaced Carlos Gallardo from El Mariachi), isn't the main character. Instead the movie is really more about Depp's Agent Sands, though there are actually more like two or three different narratives going on all at once. It's just really confusing as all hell. It's actually similar to the differences between the first and second films, much like the first two Evil Dead flicks. Desperado is more or less a remake of El Mariachi, though it really isn't. This is also inspired by the Sergio Leone "man with no name" trilogy in that there are slight differences that don't quite add up between the films even though they are about the same characters.
It wasn't until I listened to the commentary and watched the special features that I truly got a feel for how awesome an achievement this movie really is. Much like El Mariachi this film was shot under insane circumstances, done entirely in something like a month with a paltry 45 page script. Add to this the fact that for the first two weeks of filming, since the gun intended for use during filming were delayed at the border, the actors had to use rubber prop guns, which were digitally altered in post production to make them look as if they were firing. There were also scheduling conflicts that forced Rodriguez to film actors separately and then he cut the scenes together to make it appear as if both were on screen together. His use of CGI was also particularly inspired as well, servicing as bullet hits, squib effects, and in otherwise small places where it's almost unnoticeable.
The film was also shot right before a proposed actor strike, done so quickly that it was written, shot, and cut before the strike deadline. As an example, he had Johnny Depp for only 9 days on the the set and he's in the majority of the film. When you consider all that went into this film, it's actually a wonder that it came out as well as it did.
Add to this the very first 10-Minute Cooking School special feature in which Rodriguez teaches the viewers to make Agent Sands favorite Mexican meal Pureco Pibil. I've made it based on Rodriguez's instructions a number of times and it's now once of my favorite dishes, both to prepare and eat. So it's very hard for me to not love this movie, and in turn this DVD, as well as the sweet double sided combo disc that contains the first two flicks. This is a trilogy that I can really get behind.
How does one go about describing a movie so rarely ideal in every way? Well, I'll do the best I can. 'Once Upon A Time In Mexico' is a fun movie. It's "over-the-top" action is entertaining and sometimes humorous. Johnny Depp as Sands has gone over-the-top with his character also, a US agent (CIA?) infiltrating the Mexican cartels. (Rumor has it that Depp picked out his own dorky costumes for the role) He wants someone to kill Marquez, because Marquez is planning to kill the president, so he meets … more
Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the final film in the EL MARIACHI series. The fugitive couple from the last film (Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas) are still on the run from the criminals who've survived their last gun battle. We finally learn who's behind all of the EL Mariachi's troubles. Will he and his bride ever find peace and solace in the desert towns of Mexico? Can they ever settle down and raise a family? You'll find the questions to these answers and more when you watch ONCE UPON A TIME … more
Pros: See Review Cons: See Review The Bottom Line: My recommendation: sit this one out! Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Okay, Ill admit it, the first time I saw Once Upon a Time in Mexico I turned the movie off half-way through because it was, well, boring despite all of the bullets whizzing through the dusty, arid Mexico City air. This was strange to me since I thoroughly enjoyed … more
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is a hoot! Despite the fact that there is an incredible amount of violence, blood, explosions, and other forms of daring-do, Robert Rodriguez has such a good time galloping along on this adventure that it is difficult not to enjoy the ride. The sets and special effects are a terrific background for this hero adventure of El Mariachi, played to sheer perfection by Antonio Banderas. His sidekicks are the underused Marco Leonardi and Enrique Iglesias, the female pulcritude … more
The third and final film of the El Mariachi trilogy.
Starring Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Willem DaFoe, Michey Rourke, Salma Hayek Directed by Robert Rodriguez Written by Robert Rodriguez 2003
Product Description Robert Rodriguez returns with the mythic guitar-singing hero, El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas), in the third installment of the El Mariachi/Desperado trilogy. The saga continues as El Mariachi makes his way across a rugged landscape on the trail of Barrillo (Willem Dafoe), a kingpin who is planning a coup against the president of Mexico. Enlisted by Sands (Johnny Depp), a corrupt CIA agent, El Mariachi demands retribution, and the adventure begins. The character, made famous by Banderas, remains a slinger of guitars and guns, a tragic and bloodied hero, but a survivor forever.
DVD features It's obvious that Robert Rodriguez has as much fun putting together a DVD as he does making a film. Start with his rapid-fire commentary track in which he spills forth everything from his overview of the Mariachi series to how he partly wanted to make the film just so he could use high-def cameras after he saw footage from Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Then listen to the score and sound effects in full bloom on the isolated track, supplemented by Rodriguez sharing stories, identifying themes, and playing demos. His comments are intermittent, but he tells you where to skip to if you just want to listen to him. His "Ten Minute Flick School," ...