Once Upon A Time In Mexico
Rodriguez has long been making a case for himself as an extremely
creative man. Dedicated to his avocation as a filmmaker, too,
if the legend of his submitting to medical testing for money
to make El Mariachi can be believed.
should we not believe? Watching the credits for his latest
proves that he can do anything and everything. This true auteur
serves as writer, director, producer, cinematographer, composer,
editor and quite possibly craft services. As Rodriguez seems
to do everything, he also includes everything, making his
last few efforts wildly unpredictable. With the exception
of Spy Kids 3-D, that
can be a good thing.
it has also made his films chaotic messes, fun but definitely
an acquired taste not for everyone. In Once Upon A Time
In Mexico, Rodriguez has absorbed and spat back out influences
from Sergio Leone, the Japanese Zatoichi movies, Mexican
culture and folklore, and his own films, resulting in a piñata
full of bees. It's noisy and colorful, just not that sturdy.
finishing a trilogy (he has trouble maintaining anything really
approaching continuity between films), Rodriguez brings back
Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, though most people just respectfully
whisper the word "El."
enough, as he is almost a Mexican Superman. Though initially
motivated by passion, El comes around to serving justice.
With Rodriguez' plotting, it's a long and torturous route.
films had a smaller scope, with El taking on trouble in individual
towns. But as the title suggests, though the methods and action
remain much the same, the stake is much bigger. Not only must
he destroy the head of a local cartel (Willem Dafoe), but
his actions could mean the safety of the President of Mexico
the whole thing is CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp), who may
or may not be acting with the U.S.' knowledge or best interests
at heart. Another dissipated rogue in Depp's stable, Sands
plays so many sides against the middle it's hard to tell exactly
what he really wants. Like Rodriguez himself, chaos seems
the likely answer.
what he gets. Rodriguez keeps it all moving at a fast pace,
pausing for occasional meditative moments for the soulful
eyes of Banderas and Enrique Iglesias as one of his mariachi/mercenary
cohorts. If you can't quite keep track of who is after whom
and why, what really matters is that everyone looks cool.
sequences stir the blood. In particular, Rodriguez provides
a delirious sequence in a church. It starts with Depp doing
the best Brando on film this year, then swoops through a spectacular
shoot-out. After Banderas does a Spider-Man impression, he
pauses to find the rhythm of the fight on his guitar. When
his fingers tap a strong phrase, it's as dangerous as Charles
Bronson's harmonica in Once Upon A Time In The West.
there are distracting bits of business as well. As a drug
cartel underling, Mickey Rourke inexplicably (and literally)
plays hide the Chihuahua with Dafoe long before it could even
be defended as a plot point. It's just something to help him
chew the scenery. But then, most of the characters have their
little quirks to set them apart from each other: Depp has
a fixation for a particular pork dish, Iglesias can't shake
the gigolo life, and Dafoe has to deal with an extremely bad
devolves into a repetitive miasma of violence. Cool, but repetitive,
especially when Depp becomes nigh unto unkillable, and somehow
finds the time to change into a spanky spangly silver vest
before reaping what he hath sown.
two hot actresses, Salma Hayek and Eva Mendes, are part of
the action, too, they're scarcely more than window dressing.
(At least Mendes has more to do here than in 2Fast2Furious.)
Women are motivators in this film world, perhaps, but nothing
more. It's all about who is the most macho. A silly question,
when fans of Saturday Night Live know that it doesn't
matter: Lloyd Bridges esta un poquito mas macho.
should be made of Rodriguez' having shot this whole thing
digitally, which allows him to be so controlling of so many
aspects of production. It's never particularly distracting
to the average eye, though some scenes end up with a flatness
that looks like an old sixties postcard. The color scheme
of the film works that way, too, in some scenes heavily oversaturated.
That could be on purpose, adding to its "once upon a time…"
the other major maven of digital, George Lucas, too much autonomy
can be a bad thing. Though the overall movie is enjoyable,
you kind of wish somebody had been around to point out when
things were going off-track. Somebody has to be in charge,
sure, but film is definitely a group effort.
Upon A Time In Mexico is fun, but it could have been something
more if Rodriguez had let others join the party.