Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)


Directed, Written, Produced, Edited, Composed, Photographed, Visual Effects Designed and Production Designed by Robert Rodriguez

Antonio Banderas …. El Mariachi
Salma Hayek …. Carolina
Johnny Depp …. Sands
Mickey Rourke …. Billy
Eva Mendes …. Ajedrez
Danny Trejo …. Cucuy
Enrique Iglesias …. Lorenzo
Marco Leonardi …. Fideo
Cheech Marin …. Belini
Rubén Blades …. Jorge FBI
Willem Dafoe …. Barillo


Third movie of the ‘El Mariachi’ trilogy by director Rodriguez, Once Upon a Time in Mexico follows El Mariachi (1992) and Desperado (1995). Rodriguez obviously tried to achieve something like Leone’s Dollar trilogy; each subsequent film being significantly larger and more ambitious than the previous one. He does have all the pieces together; OUATIM looked like it was going to be the definitive modern spaghetti western, with an excellent all star cast including Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke and the stars of the previous movie. However, something really fails here. The script (written by Rodriguez, who else) is terribly convoluted, heavy handed and plain uninteresting. This ruins the whole movie, despite having all the excellent elements to build a fantastic movie experience, Once Upon a Time in Mexico fails to excite. The movie does have its fans though, and especially Johnny Depp’s performance as the psychotic CIA agent has received a lot of praise. This is one of the few times in his career that Depp has played a supporting role, and one of the even fewer times that he plays the bad guy. However it is no surprise that it is Depp who wins the sympathy of the audience in this movie, not Antonio Banderas.


But there are people who like the movie, here are the thoughts of our forum user ChillyPepper:

Strange, yes. Bizzarre, oh yeah. Worthy of being Robert Rodriguez’s end to the Mariachi trilogy, why not?

The opening shot is of Johnny Depp sitting in a Mexican bar eating rice and pork. Right off the bat this film captures the oddness of the previous two in a conversation he has with Cheech Marin. I was pleased with this scene because right off the bat the pitch of Rodriguez’s previous two films was established.

Usually, I don’t like to tell what the story is about in my review so I’ll make it simple. El Mariachi is found and revived to help the CIA and Mexico by protecting the president of Mexico. This won’t help much because this script has more twists and turns than an amusement park ride.

I really enjoyed the cast of characters and the highly stylized violence the most. His action scenes are caught up in their moments so much that it seems as if he’s entertaining himself more than the audience. I feel that is a good thing because it puts the film makers in complete control of their product. There are no studio time limitations here folks.

The cast was excellent. Banderas was born to play this role quite honestly. I couldn’t picture an actor who is more convincing. What makes Banderas so good is because he understands not only the character strengths and weakness’s, but he can convey them subtley and directly. He embodies the character. Of all the supporting cast I have to give a lot of credit to Mickey Rourke. For those of you who have seen this man work (i.e. Barfly and Angel Heart) you know the amount of talent he posseses. In this film, he doesn’t quite have a powerful character written for him. He subtley steals the few scenes he’s in and makes a one dimensional character seem 3D. I don’t know where Rourke has been lately, but someone give him a lead! He has the ability to be great but has been overlooked lately.

This film was better than I expected it to be, but, as seems to be the norm with this man, Johnny Depp stole the show. He gave his secondary character a depth and a kind of irressistable charm, which is quite a feat when his character is a general bad ass. This is the first time I found myself wanting a bad guy to win, cringing when he was hurt or betrayed, cheering when he had victories, and laughing when he cracked jokes or "freaked out" when things went wrong.

Little elements make this film seem more complete than it is. This film does hold up well and is an effective action film. If you want to go out and be entertained on a saturday night, this is your film. If you are an action junkie, this is your film. If you don’t like violence, stay out.

— Chillypepper / Indeppth

Our fellow writer Marek "fayansiarz" Martowicz also wrote his thoughts about the movie, they can be viewed here.