Review: “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”

I came into ‘Mexico’ as a newcomer, having never seen either “El Mariachi” or “Desperado” but familiar with all of Robert Rodriguez other work like “The Faculty” and “Spy Kids” movies. Thus how this compares to its predecessors I don’t know, as it is on its own though – ‘Mexico’ is a great fun action romp. Slickly made and polished with a nice albeit over the top south-of-the-border style, this is a smart yet silly Western with convoluted subplots about double crosses mixed in with action sequences best described as violent ballet.

Still amidst all the craziness there is one thing, or rather one person, who easily stands out above the crowd just as he did a few months ago – yes its Johnny Depp. The man can’t seem to do wrong for now, his nefariously crafty character getting the most screen time of any in this (seems even more so than Banderas) and the actor seems to be having great fun indulging in the part. Banderas has his part of angry withdrawn macho hero down to a tea, and able support from the likes of veteran actors like Dafoe, Marin, Blades & even Rourke all add to the movie (younger bucks Iglesias & Mendes though are useless).

With all the characters running around, working for different people and betraying others left, right and center it can become confusing quite easily. Some subplots like Blades’ want for revenge or Dafoe’s need for a new face don’t work as well as they should, but other elements such as the flashback back story segues are brilliantly done scenes. The look is glorious, the high-def cameras and slightly over the top style add to the exoticness of the atmosphere and the score is great.

Explosions and stunts start getting silly toward the end and scripting could’ve been better at times, the pace also begins to lag in the final half hour or so. Still, when you consider that once again Rodriguez is able to deliver a very expensive looking film like this for a very cheap price and handle much of the grunt work himself, you can’t help but admire the man’s skill. The violence is excessive but over the top and not particularly gory compared with other R-raters of late (eg. “Kill Bill”). A deliciously fun violent marathon.