With the success of El Mariachi and the ultra-cool action fest that is Desperado under his belt, director Robert Rodriguez returns to finish off his Mexican trilogy with Once Upon A Time in Mexico. Returning as the legendary gunman is Antonio Banderas, ably assisted by the ever lovely Salma Hayek and a new supporting crew featuring Johnny Depp as a ruthless CIA agent, Eva Mendes, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, Mickey Rourke, Danny Trejo and Enrique Eglasias. Phew. An all-star cast indeed, but is it any good?
Once Upon a Time in Mexico offers up a convoluted plot involving a political coup, good old-fashioned revenge and lots of excuses for plenty of bullet spraying and slo-mo antics. The movie opens with Banderas living a quiet life in a small Mexican village, having rejected his weapons and violent ways of old. Of course things don't go to plan, as the hammy CIA agent played by Depp enters the frame and drags him back into action. Thereupon the movie descends into a convoluted tale of a political coup, corruption and the old faithful dollop of revenge, as the Mariachi picks up his trusty guitar-case one last time...
This third movie is a bizarre one. It soon becomes clear that many scenes are flashbacks rather than happening in the present, and whilst I was expecting Salma Hayek to feature strongly (after all she's plastered all over the DVD cover) she is conspicuous by her absence. All the other players have bit-parts aside from Depp and Banderas, and whilst the performances are functional, nothing really shines. Depp, however manages to transcend the mediocre and puts in a pleasingly hammy turn (echoes of Pirates of The Carribean abound), but still even here it feels like he's cruising.
The main problem with Rodriguez's finale is that it all feels tired. The plot is frankly silly, the direction lacklustre, and the whole essence of the first two movies seems to have been missed. The action - of which there simply isn't enough - offers nothing new, with the same weapons, same stunts and same routines being repeated from the first two movies. There are some differences of course, but these are cursory, and mixed in with some ludicrous events (waking up chained anyone? - “my eyes are gone but hey I'm still ok”), we have a slapdash, tired movie that is utterly passable. A disappointment.
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