Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi
Salma Hayek as Carolina
Johnny Depp as Sands
Mickey Rourke as Billy
Eva Mendes as Ajedrez
Danny Trejo as Cucuy
Enrique Iglesias as Lorenzo
Marco Leonardi as Fideo
Cheech Marin as Belini
Rubén Blades as Jorge FBI
Willem Dafoe as Barillo
Gerardo Vigil as Marquez
Pedro Armendáriz Jr. as El Presidente
Julio Oscar Mechoso as Advisor
Director Robert Rodriguez has a love affair with the gun. From slow tracking shots across the gun barrel to hundreds of bullets raining down upon the main actors, the gun is a leading character in hi films. “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” follows his vision of the superhuman Mariachi gunfighter from “Desperado” into the political intrigue of Mexican politics.
This time around “El Mariachi” (Banderas) is not the center of attention. He is the hammer that drives nails into the coffins of the bad guys. The person swinging the hammer is Agent Sands (Johnny Depp). Sands is a very well-connected man and has his fingers in the business of most of the people in the movie. He initiates the events of the movie for his own self motivated interests. Salma Hayek reprises her role as Carolina, the love of El’s life. But her screen time is significantly smaller than in the first movie and it is done as flashbacks to motivate the actions of El. The rest of the cast is filled out by Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Enrique Iglesias, several other veteran actors and a hoard of cannon fodder. They all do a good job of supporting the action when the camera falls upon them.
The main problem is that the plot reaches the action in an unorganized way. Agent Sands drags the movie in strange directions and Carolina is shown exclusively in flashbacks. Rodriguez has a lot of story to tell with double crosses, vendettas, power grabs and a host of other motivations for the characters. Sands, instead of being a puppet master, is more of an obnoxious road hump that you just have to drive over to get to the rest of the movie.
Fortunately, the rest of the movie is a lot of fun. The action happens consistently throughout the movie and while occasionally over the top, is still enjoyable to watch. There are some moments of more graphic content than there were in “Desperado,” so people with weaker stomachs beware.
Who should see this movie? If you liked “Desperado” you should enjoy “Once Upon a Time in Mexico”. This sequel is not as good as the first, but it has most of the same elements in place. If you are looking for a return of the burning romance between Hayek and Banderas then you will need to go rent “Desperado” and watch it again. Hayek is on screen for only a few minutes – good character motivation minutes – just not the steamy romance part. Action is the name of the game and those seeking a nice mindless night at the movies should be very pleased. The twisting plot could have provided a nice level of suspense but the convoluted nature of it just hampered the flow of the movie. Replace Johnny Depp with a ten year old kid that says “The bad guys are that way” and you have a better movie.
It is a good end of summer film. The last of this year’s shoot-‘em-ups before the lull proceeding the Christmas Oscar movie marathon. If you can sit back and enjoy the fancy gun work, you should enjoy the movie.