Director Robert Rodriguez concluded his El Mariachi trilogy back in 2003 with yet another ultra-violent, over-the-top actioner following Antonio Banderas' seemingly immortal mariachi-turned mythical Mexican hero.
Once Upon A Time In Mexico also starred the likes of Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Eva Mendes and regulars Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo. The plot involved a planned coup whereby Dafoe's drug lord and some villainous General would take over from the President. In the middle of this whole thing is Depp's unconventional CIA agent who hires El Mariachi to do his thing, something he agrees to seeing as he has his own score to settle since his beloved Carolina (Salma Hayek) was killed. What follows is a lot of lovely guitar tunes playing over action-packed carnage: people get shot and fly 8 metres into the air, that kind of thing.
Clearly the film doesn't take itself too seriously, which actually adds to the fun of it. CIA guy Sands (Depp) is constantly making speeches, eating at restaurants, sometimes with a third arm, Mickey Rourke is always hiding his little dog from Willem Dafoe, Enrique Iglesias has an extended cameo, there's an action sequence that goes on forever where Hayek and Banderas are falling down a building in style, it's pretty entertaining. Unfortunately, the film doesn't quite match Desperado in terms of style and pace. The story is much too convoluted for us to care and, a little like with Machete, you wish there weren't this many characters and political struggles to worry about.
Whenever the action kicks in or Johnny Depp pops up, though, things get good again but overall this is a lot of fun but sort of empty. Rodriguez probably should have kept things simple and not worried too much about trying to put together an intricate story. If you like the director's brand of cartoonish Mexploitation, however, I do recommend you check out Once Upon A Time In Mexico as it's still a refreshing alternative to the usual blockbuster.