Once Upon A Time In Mexico

Director Robert Rodriguez returns to his origins and completes the third part of his Mexico trilogy by reuniting (in some shape or other) the cast from the two earlier film as well as adding a few new faces.

CIA operative, Sands (Johnny Depp), is working in Mexico to eliminate the President (Pedro Armendariz) to restore balance to the country (well, that’s what he says any ways). Unfortunately he’s not the only one who’s interested in getting rid of the President as a certain General Marquez (Gerardo Vigil) is planning a coup d’état under the guidance of cartel drug lord Barillo (William Dafoe).

Instead of just going ahead and shooting the President, Sands enlists the help of the mysterious Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) – well enlisting is a little liberal; forcing him is more like it. Although Sands wants to remove the President, he doesn’t want General Marquez in power either so he coaxes retired FBI agent Jorge (Rubén Blades) to try and bring down Barillo. Also Sands tips off AFN agent Ajedrez (Eva Mendes) onto Barillo also.

With Sands playing various people off against each other while he holds the strings in his puppet theatre of double-crossing, can the Mariachi stay alive long enough to avenge the murder of his wife Carolina (Salma Hayek) and his daughter?

The biggest issue with Once Upon A Time In Mexico is that the main plot is lost under layers of subplots and threads that tend to wind around without much pay off. It’s almost as if the film is trying too hard to be clever, but unfortunately instead of some smart Usual Suspects type of twist, we end up with a film with no real purpose.

With so many characters all vying for screen time, they do seem to get lost throughout. In addition to the aforementioned characters there also lurks Danny Trejo (well it wouldn’t be a Robert Rodriguez film without him), Cheech Marin, Enrique Iglesias, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Marco Leonardi and Mickey Rourke.

Most of the performances are good, with Antonio Banderas doing the smouldering look and Johnny Depp doing the slightly quirky nutter thing. He’s not as good as he was in the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Having had a weakness for Salma Hayek for many years, it was disappointing to only see her in a few flashbacks, but never mind, as Eva Mendes is also very easy on the eye so makes up it a little bit. William Dafoe is very convincing as a crazy Mexican drug lord.

The action is very over the top with bodies being blasted dozens of feet into the air and the usual hundred of bullets being fired, yet nothing hitting the heroes. Also Rodriguez seems to have a thing against eyes in this film as there are many instances of ‘eye damage’ – people hiding things under eye patches, empty eye sockets and a squeamish eye removal job.

The best way to describe Once Upon A Time In Mexico is a series of rather pointless, although visually entertaining, action scenes tied together with a very flimsy plot. Just don’t tug at the thin plot strings as its will all just fall apart.

Score 5/10