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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)


Jack Sparrow vs. Zorro? Yeah, I wish.

El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) who continued to look for work in any Mexican town he ran into is back once again, but this time, he isn’t looking for work, work finds him! Once a crazed and demented CIA agent (Johnny Depp) tracks him down, El Mariachi is called upon the task of saving Mexico’s president, while also killing the man who slayed both his daughter and gal-pal (Salma Hayek). El Mariachi has no problem with this since he’s always down for a nice plot of revenge, especially when he has his guitar and case around, but once the plot thickens and more people get involved with this crime, then it becomes abundantly clear that El Mariachi may have to bite off more than he can chew. Which, once again, he’s fine with, but isn’t that such a bitch?

I’ve basically gotten through all of Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexican trilogy”, and although I’ve been looking forward to seeing these flicks for quite some time, I have to say: I’ve been left very, very disappointed. Now, this obviously isn’t going to be a whole review on the trilogy, but please just bear with me for a second here. Though some may definitely disagree with me, I feel like Robert Rodriguez has definitely fallen-off the deep end as of late and has only shown that with time, and more money, that you can only become your own worst enemy once it all goes to your head.

Take this movie for instance: You have the simple plot of El Mariachi called on to do complete a mission that consists of him killing people with that six-stringed killer of his, which is, as we all know, nothing new or special, but why fix what wasn’t broken in the first place, eh? Well, then you get all of these bigger stars that just so happen to want to be apart of your movie, and then, all of a sudden, you have a much bigger story, with more characters, and in essence, less time spent on the man this trilogy was all about in the first place: El fuckin’ Mariachi.

"You can't be my hero.............BABY!"

“You can’t be my hero………….BABY!”

I read somewhere that Rodriguez meant for this story to be all jumbled, convoluted, and over-stuffed with more subplots and characters, but after awhile, it becomes a nuisance to have to pay attention to what every character says, why they say it, and decide in your own mind who’s a baddie, who’s a goodie, and who doesn’t really mean much to the plot, but is just there because he/she is a familiar face that Rodriguez just so happened to get his grasps on. Some of this may sound like I’m whining about how Rodriguez didn’t dumb the material down for me and tell me everything that I needed to know right off the bat, however, I feel like that same simplicity I’m thinking of worked well for the other two, so why wouldn’t it had here?

Some reason, I just couldn’t get so involved with this story to the point of where I felt like all hell was going to break loose, and I was actually going to give a care in the world about it. Instead, I just sort of sat there and watched, with interest, but yet, also a slight sense of boredom in the pit of my mind as I realized that I was just watching this movie, just to watch it. I wasn’t grasping anything about it, what Rodriguez was doing, or what any of the characters were saying. I was just watching it to watch it, and hopefully be entertained by the action scenes; which I was, but even by then it felt like an after-thought in Rodriguez’s mind. If you can give me something to work with, no matter how ridiculous the material is, then I’m all game; but if you play around too much and spin yourself in your own circle of confusion, then I just can’t give a single lick about it, and that’s what happened here.

However, to keep away from making this movie sound like it’s utter crap, I do have to say that some of it did have me intrigued, if only because I liked to see how far Rodriguez came as a filmmaker. Not only did it seem like he had a big budge that he used to its fullest extent, but it also seemed like he could have gone on longer with it and really fleshed it out more, adding more excitement to the final product, and even in a way, making the whole story more cohesive. Why Rodriguez didn’t see this big-budget as an attempt to go on out there and make a movie longer than an-hour-and-a-half, is totally beyond me. I guess he just wanted to confuse the hell out of us because simply: He’s cool like that.

But with a bigger-budget, does come more time for bigger and better names to be apart of your product and this time around, things are a lot better in terms of performances since the heavy-hitters Rodriguez got to come along for the ride, milk the material for all that they got, and then some. Antonio Banderas seems to be having fun playing, once again, El Mariachi, even if it is a shame that he doesn’t quite get as much attention as he definitely should. Also, don’t be fooled with all of the posters and advertising giving Salma Hayek top-billing, because she’s barely in this and even when she is, it’s all through flashbacks. Guess somebody didn’t have the time, or the courage to even bother with another “Mexican movie”. Oh well, her gain, I guess.

Doesn't watch his own movies anyway, so doesn't really matter.

Doesn’t watch his own movies anyway, so doesn’t really matter.

Although I have been bitching and moaning about how El Mariachi doesn’t get as much focus and attention as he should in his own damn movie, I can’t say that I was all that pissed off because the person taking his spot was none other than Johnny Depp himself who, in a very rare role, plays a weird guy, who also seems like he could be a human-being. Yup, believe it or not, Depp can actually play real characters, who have real emotions and feelings, and even though that’s somewhat weird to be talking about in a Robert Rodriguez movie, it doesn’t matter because Depp steals the show here and lets everybody know that any movie with him starring in it, is lucky to have him in the first place. He’s fun, quick, punchy, random, a bit of an a-hole, and above all else, an energetic mofo that doesn’t lose his comedic-timing no matter how deep his story-line gets, or how much focus of this movie has been thrown around all over the place. Single handedly, Depp saves this movie and makes me long for the days when he could do a role like this, and everybody would still be surprised and not know what to expect next from his eclectic-self. Nowadays, we’re getting 5 Pirates movies. 5?!?!?!

Like Johnny Depp in this movie, other famous faces show up and have some fun, more some than others. Willem Dafoe as a Mexican drug lord is a random bit of casting, but one that works well in the long run because it’s so bizarre, that you can accept it for what it is; Mickey Rourke plays his disloyal henchman who walks around with a little dog the whole movie, and seems like a real softy underneath the big-guy, macho man outer-exterior; Danny Trejo shows up again in this trilogy, but plays some different character, while also, at the same time, not playing a different character since they were both lethal and deadly sons-of-bitches; and Enrique Iglesias, as random as his casting may be, still does well as one of El Mariachi’s fellow mariahchis, which, I guess is a joke because in case you didn’t know by now, this mofo can sing!

Consensus: It’s probably the dumbest out of the whole trilogy, and yet, that still isn’t enough to make Once Upon a Time in Mexico the best, mostly due to the fact that there’s just too much going on, with too many people, in such a short time-limit, that you just stop caring and beg that Rodriguez decides that he’s bored too and wants to see people’s heads blown-off.

6.5 / 10 = Rental!!

It's like deja vu, all over again. Except, a bigger budget! Actually, WAY bigger budget!

It’s like deja vu, all over again. Except, a bigger budget! Actually, WAY bigger budget!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

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16 responses to “Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

  1. Chris October 10, 2013 at 4:20 am

    Can’t say I didn’t expect this reaction coming off of your previous El Mariachi reviews, lol. But, again, I enjoyed this one a lot more than you did, and while yeah, this movie can be a bit of a mess, it’s a rare case where I feel that the movie somehow benefits from being so all over the place. Johnny Depp really is great in this, tho, isn’t he? Good review, Dan. :)

  2. Morgan R. Lewis October 10, 2013 at 5:09 am

    This film is such a mess… it’s a definite disappointment coming off the relatively strong Desperado, and even the simple (if occasionally weird) El Mariachi.

  3. Zoë October 10, 2013 at 5:40 am

    I have not seen this in the longest time… I should check it out again sometime to check out exactly what is cracking there. Really good review though!

  4. Pierce Nahigyan October 10, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Great action scenes, great characters, no subtext for any of it, and then all of a sudden it becomes super-patriotic. Out of nowhere. Great soundtrack though.

  5. Jack Thursby October 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Saw this at the cinema and was really disappointed. Such a jumbled mess of movie. Don’t get me wrong there’s a few good scenes and performances in there but you’ve got to wade through a lot of dreck. I think the credit at the start says it all “shot, chopped, and scored by Robert Rodriguez”.

  6. Whit's Movie Reviews October 10, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I really enjoyed this one because of all the fun stupidness. Personally, I thought this was the best in the trilogy, but to each his own. Nice write-up Dan.

  7. Courtney Small October 10, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    This was definitely the weakest in the trilogy. There are some good moments, including the turn that Depp’s character takes in the second half, but overall it was a very disappointing film.

  8. drakulus23 October 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    I just nominated you for a Liebster Award :]

  9. cindybruchman October 10, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    LOVE this film–Johnny Depp is the comic relief that adds to the crazy-cool atmosphere. Great write up!

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