Movie review

Once Upon A Time In Mexico
Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek,
Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke

Director : Robert Rodriguez

Once Upon A Time In MexicoSet in an archetypal yet anonymous part of Mexico where orange sunlight filters through the earth's burning atmosphere to be soaked in by the cracked and decaying buildings, Once Upon A Time In Mexico is true to its real life poverty stricken true-life counterpart. Robert Rodriguez stands firm at the helm of a high voltage action film about three brothers who have to stop the Mexican cartel assassinating the President and taking over their beloved city.

This is the part where I normally go into a bit of depth about the entailing plot, but this time I'm not going to bother, as it's often hard to follow and characters swap sides throughout. It's a simple enough basis for a story, which unfortunately has been complicated due to an overpopulation of characters, none of which are given an active chance to develop and craft themselves into something the viewer can truly relate to.
    All except for one man: Johnny Depp. After his exuberant and charming portrayal of Jack Sparrow in the swashbuckling epic Pirates Of The Caribbean, Depp rolls on to play CIA Agent Sands - a man who believes in 'maintaining the balance' to such an extent he casually riddles a chef with bullets on his way out of a restaurant because his slow roasted pork was 'too good'. At times you have to wonder about the authenticity of Sands' position as a CIA Agent: He freely kills whoever he pleases, bribes civilians for information and masquerades around in belts with marijuana leaves embedded in the buckle. Full credit to the scriptwriters - they have created a loveable and charming character, albeit a very corrupt one, that Depp will slide away into his bulging portfolio of brilliantly diverse roles.

The action is over the top, beautifully edited and extremely graphic for a film bearing a 15 certificate. Be prepared for kneecaps being blown off and eyes gouged out as the battles unfold. The fact that the Mariachi trio (headed by Antonio Banderas and featuring the weak talent of Enrique Iglesias and his un-ignorable mole) are primarily musicians adds for some fun chaos involving flame vomiting guitar cases and a guitar that doubles as a fully operational machine gun. Admittedly the action does prevail over the abundance of characters - Willem Dafoe as the soon-to-be-transformed leader of the cartel to name but one - and is so slick and polished that it should have gun-slinging wannabes running for their local theatre.
    Salma Hayek's role is extremely small and presented through flashbacks, although anyone who has seen the two prequels - El Mariachi and Desperado - will not miss her role that much anyway. If you have seen neither then don't worry; this works as a stand-alone feature probably just as much as it does as part of a trilogy.

Don't see this film for its plot; go and see it for Johnny Depp and the fabulous violence - it's a breath of fresh air and something diverse enough to make a mark on its audience. 'Shot, chopped and scored' by Robert Rodriguez, this is one action flick fans of the genre will not want to miss out on.

:: Graham Drummond

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