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Once Upon a Time in Mexico Review


OK
Once Upon a Time in Mexico has everything it needs to rise to the grand occasion the film's title suggests. And written on the theater marquee, the title resonates nicely with two classic Sergio Leone epics, Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America. Director Robert Rodriguez has his El Mariachi / Desperado trilogy in the right place to deliver on such a grandiose promise: the lead character comes to the film with a tragic history and a cult following. The cast qualifies as "all-star," featuring matinee pretty boys, sultry Latin ladies and some of Hollywood's most recognizable baddies. The characters run a larger-than-life gamut of legends, presidents, corrupt government agents, and cartel leaders, each with enough grudges, ferocity, and posse to start a professional wrestling federation.

But Leone developed similar elements into films that ran more than three hours. Rodriguez packs it all into 97 minutes and can't help but give only suggestions of a plot and impressions of the forces that drive it. Nevertheless, once the bullets start flying and the one-liners start ricocheting, it doesn't matter much that Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a confusing mess of a film. When it works, you don't care about all the times it doesn't.

Continue reading: Once Upon a Time in Mexico Review

Once Upon A Time In Mexico Review


Grim

"Desperado," the second eye-poppingly stylish and unabashedly outlandish B-movie in Robert Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" shoot-'em-up trilogy, is one of my all-time favorite action movies, in part because it has its priorities straight: The plot was simple -- a nameless mariachi avenges his girlfriend's murder with a guitar case full of semi-automatic weapons and an endless supply of ammunition -- and the action was non-stop and over-the-top.

Antonio Banderas cut an imposing, mysterious, hell-bent, dangerous and dead sexy figure in his long hair, implacable glower and black suede bandito get-up -- complete with jangling spurs -- as he performed a limber slow-motion ballet of body-twisting, two-fisted gunfire while dodging hails of bullets from evil drug-runners. And all this was set to a steamy, dynamic south-of-the-border score by the great guitaristas of Los Lobos.

But in the new installment, "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," writer-director-editor-composer Rodriguez pollutes the action -- which is uncharacteristically erratic, incongruous and over-edited -- with a needlessly convoluted plot involving 1) a thorny coup attempt against the Mexican president backed by a cartel kingpin (Willem Dafoe) and his turncoat henchman (Mickey Rourke), 2) a crooked and borderline-loco CIA agent (Johnny Depp) playing both sides against the middle, 3) a former FBI agent (Ruben Blades) frustrated with not nailing the kingpin before his retirement, 4) a curvaceous, gung-ho greenhorn federale (Eva Mendez) with ulterior motives, and 5) yet another murder, played out in fantasized-action flashbacks, that the mariachi is out to avenge.

Continue reading: Once Upon A Time In Mexico Review

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