Once Upon a Time in Mexico Review

by Steve Rhodes (Steve DOT Rhodes AT InternetReviews DOT com)
September 15th, 2003

A film review by Steve Rhodes
Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): * 1/2

Robert Rodriguez's ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, a miserable excuse for a movie, is almost saved by Johnny Depp's wonderfully hammy performance. Playing a three-armed CIA agent -- don't ask -- who hires a hit man with a guitar gun, Depp is as good as the film he is in is bad.

As CIA Agent Sands, Depp gets to deliver some great dialog: "Sometimes a revolution is what is needed to clean up the system -- one gigantic enema," and "Are you a Mexican or a Mexican't." He's an undercover agent who wears a T-shirt with a large CIA logo on it, and who talks incessantly on his cell phone.

The film features comic book action with thousand of bullets unable to stop the heroes, who themselves prove to be perfect marksmen. Completely over the top, the movie is a mess with a hopelessly convoluted plot about presidential coups and assassins of assassins. Beside the guitar gun, there is also a guitar flamethrower and a remote controlled guitar bomb.

Antonio Banderas plays El Mariachi. He is called "El," as in "the" in Spanish, one of the characters points out. El has two modes. He's either staring off pensively in space, or he's blasting away with his big guns. In almost a cameo, Salma Hayek plays Carolina, his girlfriend/wife. Carolina has fighting skills that Charlie's Angels could only dream of.

"You know, if I were you, I'd turn back," Billy (Mickey Rourke), a Chihuahua-carrying bad guy, warns another character early in the movie. I should have taken his advice. (The mere appearance of Mickey Rourke's name in the credits should give discerning moviegoers pause.)

Wait for video when you can fast-forward past every scene without Johnny Depp.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO runs way too long at just 1:37. The film is in English and in Spanish with English subtitles. It is rated R for "strong violence, and for language" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, age 14, gave it ***, saying that the film was outrageously over the top, which is what made it fun. He liked its mix of style, and he especially liked Depp's performance.

The film is playing in nationwide release now in the United States. In the Silicon Valley, it is showing at the AMC and the Century theaters.

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