Projections - Movie Reviews

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon A Time in Mexico has action and violence to please those not enamored with the cheeky computer-whiz sensibility of his Spy Kids trilogy.

The follow-up to 1995's Desperado has Antonio Banderas and the smoldering Salma Hayek back, as well as actors like Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo.  It's pretty clear that Rodriguez is cranking out A Fist Full of Dollars trilogy for the 21st century with a nod to the mythic approach of Sergio Leone.  Banderas would be his Clint Eastwood and he has no problem picking up that potent guitar case again.

In some ways Mexico is a lot more fun than Desperado and closer to the very low-budgeted El Mariachi, a cool cult hit.  Surprisingly, Hayek is given a limited role as his now beloved spouse, Carolina, but the film has a snaky narrative that features flashbacks that take one up to speed.

The script, also from Rodriguez, appears elemental initially with Banderas loner, elusive Mariachi tracked by a corrupt, psychotic CIA agent, Sands, well played by Johnny Depp.  Sands implores the no-name guy with the guitar case to assassinate a nefarious cartel lord, Barrillo, played by a slickly dark-coiffed Willem Dafoe.  What happens may be hard to fathom at times with disguises and twists as Barrillo is plotting to take out Mexico's El Presidente.

Many chores are performed by the writer-director using a Sony high-definition digital camera, including composer, editor, and production designer.  The Latin orchestral sounds are sharp and the sun-drenched lighting gives the feel of Leone's spaghetti westerns.

The maze of a plot puts Carolina in our conflicted dashing hero's mind and the fight sequences have a vicious quality of ballet to them.  Of course, the bad guys suffer more than the few good guys, assuming one can keep track of who is on which side.

The busy Eva Mendes glows as the cool, dangerous Ajedrez and Mickey Rourke and Ruben Blades endow some wit in their imposing gun-slingers.  Enrique Iglesias will draw his music fans out as one of Banderas' sidekicks.  And Depp stands out in this "phantom" epic with a thrilling motorcycle chase, a memorable battle with silencers in a church and a bullfight that gives a rock n' roll rhythm to the legend of Leone's most notable work.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

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