Rounding out Robert Rodriguez’s ˜El Mariachi Trilogy’ is Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Following the continuing story of El Maricahi (Antonio Banderas), the third instalment brings with it some big Hollywood stars and a far more tongue-in-cheek approach to storytelling. Considered by Rodriguez as the equivalent of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in Sergio Leone’s ˜Dollars Trilogy,’ Once Upon a Time in Mexico became the highest grossing of all three films by taking $98m from a budget of $29m.
CIA Agent Sheldon Sands (Johnny Depp) hires El Mariachi (Banderas) to kill the leader of guerrilla force working under the control of drug lord Armando Barillo (Willem Dafoe) who is also being followed by AFN operative Ajedraz (Eva Mendes).
To give Once Upon a Time in Mexico more synopsis than the above would risk spoiling the twisting, complicated and thoroughly convoluted plot. Needless to say there’s lots of characters, plenty of betrayals and an over-the-top gunfight or two. In fact throughout Rodriguez never bothers dwelling too long on characterisation or coherent narrative, instead preferring a close-up of someones sweating face and a diving, slow-motion, midair gunfight.
It’s bold, brash and thoroughly entertaining¦ for about half there film. Then it becomes tiresome as he runs out of novel ideas and by the end of Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the audience have completely lost interest in what happens to various characters. These characters a mish-mash of stereotypes from the Old West with Depp giving a decent turn as a cool-looking CIA agent (not exactly a stretch for him) and Mickey Rourke on suitably bizarre form as a fugitive living with the drug lord.
Sadly this cast of misfits can’t save Once Upon a Time in Mexico from completely losing its way throughout the final act, which is a shame because the tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Leone’s work was rather neatly and visually appealing. But with Banderas almost completely sidelined as a character to make way for the new American stars and an excessively violent-to-the-point-of-distraction finale leaves a rather bitter taste in the audience’s mouth.
In the end Once Upon a Time in Mexico is one half of a good film followed by one half of a dreadful film, which sours the whole experience of the ˜Mariachi Trilogy.’ Still there are enough points of interest and visual flair to avoid this becoming one of a number of really terrible pseudo Westerns, if only there was more Mariachi and less everyone else.