Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Dir: Robert Rodriguez
Star: Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Ruben Blades, Willem Dafoe

Probably the most irritating myth about Rodriguez is that he made El Mariachi for $7,000. Ok, he did - and it was unreleasable. What you see on screen ended up nearer quarter of a million dollars, thanks to much post-production clean-up. Still, credit to him for parlaying it into a ticket to Hollywood, and I also admire his genre-hopping style and general enthusiasm. But confess to finding this significantly less interesting than I'd hoped: if Desperado was a bigger-budget remake of Mariachi, this is a bigger-budget remake of Desperado. The main difference is Depp (his second case of Grand Theft Cinema this summer) as Sands, CIA agent sporting a wide selection of dumb T-shirts - I particularly liked the one with "CIA" on the front in large letters, even if it did stand for 'Cleavage Inspection Agency'.

He brings the Mariachi (Banderas) out of hiding to counter an imminent coup plotted by drug-lord Barillo (Dafoe). Not stop it, mind: just kill the new puppet president. There are other subplots: the puppet shot the Mariachi's family, Barillo killed the friend of a retired FBI man (Blades), and Sands' sidekick (Danny Trejo) switches sides. It all ends in revolution, though Rodriguez seems to lose control of the action, which often becomes confused; there are also some wobbly CGI explosions. As you'd expect from the cast, there are some great stare-downs, and it's at its best when Rodriguez keeps things simple, pitting a crippled Sands against two gunmen in a shoot-out worthy of the most obvious influence, Sergio Leone. More of this style - and, frankly, less of a very wooden Banderas - would have been beneficial.


Depp steals the show. Again.
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