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ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, 2003
Movie Review

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO MOVIE POSTER
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, 2003
Movie Reviews

Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Cheech Marin
Review by Martyn Warren



SYNOPSIS:

Hitman "El Mariachi" becomes involved in international espionage involving a psychotic CIA agent and a corrupt Mexican general.

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REVIEW:

Eight years after making Desperado, Robert Rodriguez has worked on a number of different projects for different target audiences, from family films (The Spy Kids Trilogy) to horrors for teenagers and young adults (Faculty and From Dusk Till Dawn). After eight years waiting to make the third and final film of his Mexican Trilogy, Rodriguez has finally made the series complete with Once Upon A Time In Mexico (dir. Robert Rodriguez).

Following the story where Desperado left off (dir. Robert Rodriguez), El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is now a lone musician who has settled in a quiet Mexican town, until a CIA agent named Sands (Johnny Depp) hears about his famed reputation for killing drug dealers in each town he came across and manages to convince him to come out of his quiet life and help him restore order in Mexico by killing General Emiliano Marquez (Gerardo Vigil), who murdered El Mariachiís wife and child. As well as El Mariachi joining his force, Sands also convinces Jorge FBI (Ruben Blades) to help him to take down Barillo (William Dafoe), a drug leader who Sands is convinced is up to no good.

The first half-hour of the film introduces all of the main antagonist and protagonist characters who appear throughout the film and there are quite a lot, but the length of the film gives the actors and actresses enough screen time and even with the number of characters there are in the film, it isnít confusing or frustrating to see them in a hundred minute film as the story unfolds to unveil their true characteristics in the second half.

Each of the films Rodriguez has directed for his Mexican Trilogy have had a very different style in comparison and different ways of telling their story.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico is no different, having more of a bigger town to film in that has many buildings and architecture to set the scenes on. The lighting has also changed, having bright yellow lighting to match with the bright walls and sunlight in the exterior scenes. Another new change is that the narrative is multi-stranded so that we see what each of the individual characters are up to and how they all revolve around each other, as well as having flashbacks to find out what made El Mariachi leave his life of violence and hide away in a quiet life.

There have also been some improvements done from Desperado that have been taken note and with a budget of $29,000,000, the improvements also look as good as other mainstream films around the time of its release. These improvements are mainly tweaks, such as the blood and set pieces, but they do make a difference. The blood has more over-the-top splatter and the many large set pieces have more interesting backgrounds to look at, especially since the cameras used to shoot the film were HD.

Compared with the overall experience of the films that are part of a great film series, Once Upon A Time In Mexico has definitely polished over the mistakes the first two made, but does feel different from them in terms of having a higher budget and making the story more suitable for newcomers then it does to previous fans, which is the only main flaw of the film.

The strongest point about the Mexican Trilogy is the music always fits really well with the atmosphere of the films and brings the culture of Mexico to cinemagoers outside the country that are unfamiliar with the sound.

With this film, the music was performed by a number of different musicians and they managed to pull of the different moods in the each scene. For the scenes where Antonio Banderas and Johnny Depp are preparing for their final fight though, the actors themselves actually made their own music for these scenes and I think that this was a nice touch since the actors knew how their characters would do in these scenes right before their climatic sequences and show off more of their talents as musicians.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico may not be as appealing towards the fans of the previous instalments in comparison with newcomers of the series, but the film does manage to pull off all insane action sequences and the emotional flashbacks that should please audiences. People should be pleased with this film, whenever itís just seeing the A-list cast or seeing a film made by the legendary auteur filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez.

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