Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Starring:
Johnny Depp, Antonio Banderas, Willem Dafoe
Directed By :
Robert Rodriguez
Grade
B+

After making a string of family-friendly films (Spy Kids 1, 2 & 3), director Robert Rodriguez has returned to his more action oriented roots with Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Technically the third in a series of films (El Mariachi and Desperado being the other two), Once Upon a Time in Mexico brings back most of the cast from Desperado, though in different roles, with the exception of Antonio Banderas, who plays the mariachi once again, and Salma Hayek, playing his love interest.

The story this time around is a bit confusing, as Rodriguez attempts to make an epic story fit into an hour and a half of screen time. The plot revolves around Agent Sands (Johnny Depp), a C.I.A. agent in Mexico who needs to find El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) for an assignment only he can carry out. The local cartel, led by Barillo (Willem Dafoe), has joined forces with a corrupt military general, and plans to assassinate the President of Mexico, in order to rule over the entire country. Agent Sands has a plan to stop this, and make a boatload of cash in the process, but he needs El Mariachi for the plan to work. You see, the corrupt military general killed some people very close to El Mariachi, and he wants revenge, making him a perfect choice for the assignment.

What follows this setup is a messy story, with so many sub plots it makes your head spin. There's a retired F.B.I. agent who wants to take down Barillo as well, a corrupt aide to the President who wants to sell out, a former American working for Barillo who wants out of the country (Mickey Rourke in a small role), and a corrupt member of the Mexican police working for both Sands and Barillo.

For those who saw Desperado, and are thinking "Well, as long as the action is cool, I can get past the story", you're in for some disappointment. While Once Upon a Time in Mexico has its share of action scenes, they are far apart, and very choppy. However, there is enough of the frenetic energy that Desperado has to make up for this, and Banderas does a great job yet again as the untouchable hero. Normally, I'd harp on an action movie with so-so action scenes and a bad story, but this is not the case with Once Upon a Time in Mexico. No, the biggest reason I enjoyed this movie was the performance by Johnny Depp. Much like he did in Pirates of the Caribbean earlier this year, Depp steals the show in this film. In fact, you could argue that his is the main character; he gets more screen time than Banderas and is, in my opinion, a much more interesting character. Every time he's not on screen, you wish he were, and when he is, the movie seems to pick up and get more interesting. Were it not for him, I'd have given this movie a lower score.

As it stands, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a film worth your time if you are a fan of the previous movies. While not as action packed as Desperado, it still has enough shootouts and explosions to satisfy fans of that film, and the performances are good across the board, Depp's performance alone is worth the price of a ticket.

- - Darken Rahl

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