ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is the final film in the EL MARIACHI trilogy. About 15 years ago a young Mexican-American-Texan named Robert Rodriguez stunned Hollywood by writing, producing, directing, scoring, and editing a feature length film, shot on location in Mexico…for $7,000. The amazing thing was that, though tough and bloody, it was a good movie!
Soon, he was on his way. With the help of Quentin Tarantino, Robert started creating movies in Hollywood. Some were memorable…some not. In 1995, he made a sequel to EL MARIACHI, starring Antonio Banderas, that had a real Hollywood budget and effects. The cost of catering the meals for DESPERADO was more than the entire budget of EL MARIACHI. Though it was very bloody and violent, DESPERADO did fairly well at the box office. Lately, Rodriguez has wowed and pleased audiences with the SPY KIDS movies.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is not a children’s movie. It matches the blood letting of GANGS OF NEW YORK. The difference being that the viewer of ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is supposed to laugh at some of it! Wearing his normal six to eight hats (yes RR shows up eight times in the credits), Mr. Rodriguez seems to have intentionally made a fairly sloppy movie. Designed to be in the comic-book-brought-to-film genre that is so popular, Mr. Rodriguez pushes the use of a stylized red and yellow motif, over-the-top cold killers, and jump cuts to the limits of taste. There are times it appears that he is making fun of himself or satirizing his earlier films.
The EL MARIACHI series is based on revenge. The lead character’s wife (Salma Hayek) and daughter are killed (some think along with the mariachi himself), but he returns to wreck unimaginable havoc upon the evildoers. In this case, it’s another drug lord bent on taking over Mexico with his dozens of henchmen.
Johnny Depp steals most of the scenes playing a rogue, psychotic CIA agent called Sands. Sands is a puppeteer behind the scenes. He hires the mariachi to kill a general that is intent on a coup against the Mexican President. It turns out that the general is the same man who killed the mariachi’s wife and daughter. He’s actually getting paid to exact his own revenge.
Bullets fly. Blood Splatters. Bodies fall in slow motion. Repeat for 95 minutes adding cruelty, torture, and humor to mix it up. The president is saved. The bad guys die violently. The mariachi walks in slow motion down the highway with a Mexican flag draped across his chest. Fade to black.
Rodriguez knows how to shoot action, and the action only slows for some brief dialogue that, in some cases, is fairly clever. The music (again by RR), mostly Spanish guitar, is very good. Marred by graphic violence, cruelty, and foul language, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is not suitable for moral audiences. Let’s pray that Robert Rodriguez directs his attention back to the action/family films that he does so well.
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John Calley, Chairman/CEO
Sony Pictures Entertainment
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SUMMARY: In ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, a mariachi hit man is hired to stop a drug lord from overthrowing the Mexican government – the same drug lord that murdered the mariachi’s wife and daughter. With lots of action violence, including cruelty and torture, this third movie in the EL MARIACHI trilogy is a scary jump from Rodriguez’s lighter, sweeter SPY KIDS series.
(PaPa, B, LLL, VV, S, N, AA, D, MM) Pagan worldview glorifying violence and the "3 G's" - gold, glory, and girls with some biblical elements with lead character asking God to forgive him; strong language with seven profanities and 30 obscenities, most of them strong; violence includes torture, death by car wreck, gunfire, fire, falling, knives, and explosives; sex includes scantily-clad women dancing in a bar; alcohol use portrayed; smoking portrayed; misc. immorality includes lying, cheating, stealing, & revenge.