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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.83%
Worth A Look30.34%
Average: 17.24%
Pretty Bad: 19.31%
Total Crap: 8.28%

7 reviews, 103 user ratings

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Once Upon a Time in Mexico
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by Brian McKay

"And they all died messily ever after . . ."
4 stars

Having enjoyed both of the previous films centering around the character known as "El Mariachi", I hate to admit that ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO will be a bit of a letdown for most of the fans. While it boasts the requsite number of action sequences and plenty of Latino bad-ass hipness, the only thing more unwieldy than its title is the number of characters and subplots that director Robert Rodriguez tries to keep spinning like plates on broomsticks in-between the shootouts.

Hopefully you will have seen El Mariachi and Desperado before you set foot in the theater for Mexico, but I suppose neither of them are really mandatory viewing. Suffice it to say that all three films have the same basic plot - the guitar-playing drifter known as El Mariachi (or simply "El") hates drug lords - especially ones that kill his women folk. This time he's after a corrupt Mexican General who is in cahoots with the drug lord Barillo (Willem Dafoe, whose performance as a mustachioed Mexicano surprisingly adds little to the film). Barillo and the General want to stage a coup and kill the President of Mexico. However, psychotic CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) has other plans. He hires El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) to stop the conspirators - but only after they have succeeded in killing El Presidente, allowing Sands to take advantage of the subsequent power vacuum. El Mariachi agrees to go along with the plan at first, but when he decides that the President is in fact a good man, he makes plans of his own for the impending coup.

Meanwhile, the film indulges us with numerous flashbacks of El Mariachi's lost love, Carolina (The hotter-than-ever Salma Hayek) and introduces us to a barrage of minor players. These include a Mexican federal agent (Eva Mendes - also hot) struggling for respect amongst her macho male peers, A retired F.B.I. agent (Ruben Blades) who still wants to bring down Barillo, and an aging small-time hood (Mickey Rourke, looking more and more like James Caan) in Barillo's employ who just wants to get the fuck out of Mexico and back to the States - even if it's in a prison jumpsuit. Perennial Rodriguez film favorite Danny Trejo also shows up (even though they killed him in Desperado), only to have his character abruptly dismissed in a rather disappointing manner.

The biggest problem with Once Upon a Time in Mexico is that it is, as a friend of mine described it, "too plotty". Segments between the action tend to meander for too long, and the film's annoying habit of expository dialogue is only offset by Rodriguez's brand of humor. And while Mexico is overall an entertaining film, the whole thing feels rushed - from the juggled subplots that are wrapped up in a quick, haphazard manner, to the lack of post-production polish on a number of scenes, it feels as if Rodriguez was in a hurry to get this one out the door before it got lost amid all of the fourth-quarter mega-blockbusters.

Still, while Mexico gets bogged down in its own busyness (and the occasional lack of continuity), it brings plenty of good things to the table. Both humor and music have always been crucial elements of the the Mariachi films, and neither of them disappoint here. And while some of the action sequences feel a bit perfunctory, most of them deliver, with Banderas tossing his long hair about wildly as he makes good use of his guitar case full of automatic weapons and the trusty double-barelled sawed-off. If I do have one major bitch, however, it is that the nickel-plated and spring-loaded .45's that El Mariachi kept tucked up his sleeves in the last movie are nowhere to be seen here. It's a trifling matter, I suppose, but now I want to rent Desperado again just to see him make those pistolas jump into his hands as he mows down a bar full of generic villains.

If there's one thing that safely elevates Mexico from three to four-star status, it's Depp's performance as the highly eccentric and morally ambiguous Agent Sands. Just as he did with Pirates of the Caribbean, Depp manages to pull a sizeable portion of the film's ass out of the fire. Is he a good guy? Bad guy? Complete nut job? Who cares, he's fun to watch. Acting a bit like Cap'n Jack Sparrow and wearing bad disguises and what look like Hunter S. Thompson wardrobe leftovers from the set of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Depp's particular brand of nuttiness keeps Mexico from becoming mired in the stagnant realm of the formulaic actioner.

Although it lacks the creativity of EL MARIACHI and the polished slickness of DESPERADO, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is still an enjoyable cap to the Mariachi trilogy that occasionally disappoints, but never mars the good name of its predecessors. I wouldn't mind seeing El Mariachi return for a fourth outing - but next time, he'd better bring those wrist-pistols to the party.

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originally posted: 09/14/03 04:02:40
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User Comments

3/24/12 GEORGE B. FEIST LOVE THE HUMOR...over the top and actors have fun 4 stars
11/09/11 Jeff Wilder Hayek underused and the plot is overstuffed. Good action though. 3 stars
9/07/10 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
7/22/08 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
10/29/07 Hester Less style and tightness than desperado, some cool scenes 2 stars
10/02/07 Double M A Rodriguez movie that has Banderas, Depp, Dafoe, Rourke (!) should be better. still, fun.. 3 stars
1/26/07 Artist Bill Silly putty is more entertaining... 2 stars
10/30/06 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
6/27/06 Ashley Hinz Horrible excuse for a movie. 1 stars
6/16/06 Michele loved it 5 stars
6/13/06 Indrid Cold Why have Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe in your movie if they don't do anything? 3 stars
5/26/06 William Goss Has its moments and performances, but underwhelming on the visceral front. 3 stars
5/19/06 drydock54321 this is not for me 2 stars
4/29/06 RK Rodriguez's movies are always stylish and entertaining 3 stars
2/21/06 Striker An insult to Desperado(1995) 1 stars
11/01/05 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
10/10/05 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
8/16/05 me bandage man is sexy, i also happen to be mentally ill 5 stars
8/12/05 Kelly there is not enough space to tell how awful it was!i walked out!!!Go rent Desperado instead 1 stars
6/22/05 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
3/16/05 Andrea Worst Depp movie I've ever seen. Plot is way too confusing. Who is who?? 2 stars
2/23/05 malcolm where the hell was salma hayek 2 stars
1/02/05 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
11/14/04 ELI This movie was DRY! Needed more blood. 3 stars
9/05/04 AL No plot, no characters. Lots of shooting. crap 1 stars
8/25/04 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
8/19/04 courtney lost me during the movie but still good action 4 stars
7/20/04 Ionicera I didn't get what was going on but I was also playing Isketch at the same time 3 stars
7/08/04 Denise Johnny Depp is terrific, brilliant, and funny 5 stars
7/02/04 DM Nothing special, but enjoyable enough 4 stars
6/26/04 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
6/20/04 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
4/07/04 yosharto Depp n Banderas were way hot!even wen eyes were takin outt!sharting!shoud have been it dis! 4 stars
3/28/04 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
3/17/04 CoLLeeN when was done i wanted to watch it again to try and catch what i missed.then i thought why? 4 stars
3/10/04 Ash Yet again, Depp IS the film! 5 stars
3/09/04 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
2/23/04 Gray fun to watch but confusing 4 stars
2/21/04 Denise Duspiva Funny 5 stars
2/20/04 Agent Sands In my top 5! Action, Depp, script, music, everything, deserve a STANDING OVATION!! 5 stars
2/16/04 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
2/12/04 jj It's a fun & intertaining movie with, sometimes, good action. 3 stars
2/10/04 Jingo P. Low character developement and overly-confusing storyline, but STILL LOVED IT! 4 stars
2/08/04 hooters It's very entertaining, great acting, beautiful music 5 stars
2/01/04 George great film and great music 5 stars
1/26/04 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) One of my top 5 FAVORITE movies. It's the masterpiece of Depp AND Rodriguez. 5 stars
1/23/04 Betty White Nice visual style and colorful performances. 4 stars
1/03/04 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
12/02/03 Kooler Jennifer Aniston's old hair-do looks great on Banderas 3 stars
11/15/03 Ultron Banderas gives the perofrmance of his life in this entertaining film. 4 stars
11/08/03 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
10/29/03 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
10/14/03 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
10/08/03 Azeneth I haven´t seen it, but I certainly will just to watch Depp and Banderas. 4 stars
10/07/03 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
10/02/03 snowconehead Fun, but gratuitous. Innocent people die every 3 minutes. Depp is awesome. 4 stars
10/01/03 MA Designs the movie was very good 4 stars
9/27/03 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
9/20/03 greenmonster no one carried this film, it was miserable, I want my $6.50 back 1 stars
9/19/03 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
9/16/03 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
9/15/03 Koitus Agree that the movie was WAY too many sub-plots. Unrealistic church shootem up scene also! 3 stars
9/15/03 jawsboy24 Average. Decent acting, but the action is mostly dull. Worth a look, but not great. **'s 3 stars
9/15/03 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
9/14/03 escher Maybe not a "good" movie, but easily one of the most enjoyable movies I've seen in awhile. 5 stars
9/14/03 Nicole Plots not developed - can be hard to follow. Great performance by Depp 4 stars
9/14/03 KING EDWARD what kind of a faggot name is starhawk? i hope you die - the movie is great 5 stars
9/14/03 Starhawk This is the most awful drivel I've seen this year. Terrible action sequences and lame plot 1 stars
9/13/03 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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