The Barenaked Archives – Once Upon a Time in Mexico

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Once Upon a Time in MexicoHere’s a question to ponder: If you go to a movie knowing what to expect, is it a bad thing if it meets expectations?

Answer: Nope. Not at all.

I went into Once Upon a Time in Mexico expecting a long, bloody gun battle, and boy, did I get it.

Robert Rodriguez returns from his kiddie hiatus with the Spy Kids movies in a spectacular action-fest known as Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the sequel to Rodriguez’s 1995 hit Desperado, and fans of his adult-oriented, violent films will be glad to see him doing what he does best.

In this movie, the man known only as El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is dragged at gunpoint out of his “retirement” by rogue CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) who wants El Mariachi to kill a general being paid by a drug lord (Willem Dafoe) to assassinate the president of Mexico. Being as that El Mariachi has a personal vendetta against said general, he agrees.

There are some double and triple crosses, but I’m going to stop there because I don’t want to spoil anything. One good thing to note is that you need not see Desperado before seeing this movie, although it is helpful with the flashbacks.

First off, props to Johnny Depp. In Pirates of the Caribbean, he plays a scoundrel, but he’s a nice scoundrel. In this movie, he is a slimeball playing all sides of the coin, with a wealth of tricks and disguises up his sleeve (quite literally, in this case) and he provides the majority of the dry humor for the film. Despite the fact that he’s despicable, you still can’t help rooting for him, just a little bit.

Antonio Banderas is returning to one of his most famous roles, and repeats a great performance as the mythic guitar-playing gunslinger. The acting was really enjoyable all around, although granted, the roles of the villains don’t get a whole lot of depth. But that’s okay. It just makes it easier to anticipate the fashion in which they’re going to get their brains blown out.

Speaking of brains getting blown out, there’s a lot of that going on in this movie. Then again, it’s a Robert Rodriguez movie, so what else would you expect? The action was awesome. It puts the majority of the movies that have come out since the end of July to shame. There are no words to describe it, except maybe that I walked out of the theater with a big dumb grin on my face.

You’ve also really got to appreciate Rodriguez’s talent when watching this movie. He did just about everything for this film: he wrote it, directed it, produced it, scored it, and “chopped” it (as the credits refer to the editing process). The camera angles and cuts that he chooses put you right in the middle of the action. Rodriguez is well-known for practically being a one-man studio, and as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Clocking in at barely over an hour and a half, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a fast-paced and very bloody action flick that may not qualify as a great date movie, but that anybody who likes good action or Desperado should enjoy.

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One comment on “The Barenaked Archives – Once Upon a Time in Mexico

  1. Paul says:

    Awesome coincidence! I was listening to this soundtrack today while unpacking from the holiday! 🙂 In addition to being excellent music for barroom brawls, “Malaguena” is also excellent for putting away laundry.

    I saw this film with my friends Jon and Damion. In a weird bit of culture clash, I always associate this movie with the Star Wars Kid, because we watched all those videos the same weekend as we saw the film. It is a strange association to have in one’s memory! As for the film, this succinct commentary was offered as soon as we were done watching,

    “When Willem Dafoe gives the most restrained performance in the film, you know your film is over the top.”

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