Tuesday, July 14, 2015


"Once Upon A Time in Mexico" (2003)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
   The third film in Robert Rodriguez's "Mexico Trilogy" is widely regarded as the weakest of the three films. It should come to you as no surprise that I love this film and I think it's better than "Desperado". Yup. I just typed that.
   When "El Mariachi" was released back in 1992, I immediately loved it. I took to this film so much, that I initially rejected "Desperado" as it's sequel for two reasons (I have since changed my mind):
1. I hated that Carlos Gallardo, as El Mariachi, was not reprising his role (although I do appreciate his cameo).
2. At the time, I refused to see the style of the film as nothing more than a rip-off of John Woo. This bothered me because my non movie-nerd friends praised the film for it's stylish action. I felt like "SNL-era" David Spade: "I liked it the better the first time, when it was called, THE KILLER."
   I have changed my mind about the John Woo criticism for two reasons.
1. I now regard "El Mariachi" as the reality of what really happened and the second two films as representations of the legend that El Mariachi inspired. When people tell stories of legends, they tend to exaggerate. To me, this film is supposed to look like the imagination of a person who is talking about someone they never met in an adventure that most likely never happened. The fact that it looks like a John Woo film is perfect. A nerd would imagine El Mariachi to be like a Mexican version of Chow Yun-fat.
2. Being able to mimic the style of John Woo is no easy task, muy bien!
   This leads to "Once Upon A Time in Mexico". If you go along with my theory that "El Mariachi" is the only thing that actually happened and that the rest is all folklore, this one is my favorite because it treats the legend like a violent Looney Tunes cartoon. This film is balls out crazy. You had to wait until Robert Rodriguez started making the "Machete" films before he returned to this style of Mexican grindhouse.
   The Sheldon Jeffery Sands character (played by Johnny Depp) is terrific. His fake arm, the cheesy disguises, his choice of using lunchboxes for his ten thousand dollar pay-offs, and the blind shoot-out at the end of the film are all awesome. Johnny Depp delivers his dialogue like a champ. My favorite lines in this film are spoken by his character, in regards to the quality of his meal: "It's so good that when I'm finished, I'll pay my check, walk straight into the kitchen and shoot the cook. Because that's what I do. I restore the balance to this country", followed by the murder of the cook. Love it!
   The wild villains in this film add to the cartoon-like atmosphere:
Willem Dafoe as Armando Barillo (who, after a surgery gone wrong, eventually looks like a mummy).
Mickey Rourke as Billy Chambers, who hides his pet chihuahua, Moco (a nod to the drug lord from the first film) behind his back, whenever talking to boss Armando for reasons unknown.
Danny Trejo as Cucuy, a henchman I love, simply because I adore Danny Trejo and his beautifully intimidating face.
   Among my favorite things in this film are:
Bullets so powerful, they cause El's victims to fly backwards.
The scene where El and his wife, Carolina, escape a building, swinging from story to story utilizing a chain that attaches them to one another by the wrist.
Cucuy evens the odds at the bull fight with the flick of a switch.
Salma Hayek and Eva Mendes provide irresistible eye candy.
El's gang of mariachis, with their arsenal of weapons disguised as guitar cases, is as much of a hoot in this film as it was in "Desperado".
   Add Mexico's "Day of the Dead" holiday as it's backdrop and this wild action film makes for a whimsical experience. The only thing missing are the action figures (and the lunchbox that you would put ten thousand dollars in).
   This film came out in 2003. It's officially old enough to revisit, re-appreciate and submit for Cult Classic status.
Be a Mexican.
Not a Mexican't.


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