HOME ABOUT SUPPORT US SITES WE LIKE FORUM Search Fanboyplanet.com | Powered by Freefind FANBOY PLANET
Now Showing Today's Date:

Once Upon A Time In Mexico

Robert 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.

And why 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.

However, 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.

Loosely 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."

Appropriate 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.

The previous 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 (Pedro Armendariz).

Manipulating 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.

And that's 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.

Individual 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.

Obviously, 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 tan.

The climax 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.

Though 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.

Much 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…" quality.

Like 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.

Once Upon A Time In Mexico is fun, but it could have been something more if Rodriguez had let others join the party.


Derek McCaw

Our Friends:

Official PayPal Seal

Copyrights and trademarks for existing entertainment (film, TV, comics, wrestling) properties are held by their respective owners and are used with permission or for promotional purposes of said properties. All other content ™ and © 2001, 2014 by Fanboy Planet™.
"The Fanboy Planet red planet logo is a trademark of Fanboy Planetâ„¢
If you want to quote us, let us know. We're media whores.
Movies | Comics | Wrestling | OnTV | Guest | Forums | About Us | Sites