In Once Upon a Time in Mexico, writer/director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Spy Kids, From Dusk Til Dawn) revisits characters he created and introduced with the low budget, but highly enjoyable, 1992 release of El Mariachi and followed up on in 1995's Desperado.
Antonio Banderas returns as El Mariachi, reprising his the role from Desperado that made him a name in Hollywood. Also included is Selma Hayak as Carolina, Johnny Depp as the corrupt CIA operative Agent Sands, Willem Dafoe as a cartel drug kingpin Barillo, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Enrique Egelsias, Cheech Marin, Ruben Blades, and character actor Danny Trejo.
The plot, as I understood it, involved a complicated scheme to overthrow the president of Mexico, and who would end up assuming power in the vacuum that follows. Agent Sands was particularly involved in this, seeming to work both ends for his own profit. El Mariachi is recruited by Sands to eliminate the general hired by the leader of the drug cartel to assassinate the president. The reason Sands contacted El Mariachi for this is due to a past, unresolved conflict between El Mariachi and the general. Sounds complicated? At some point, you may have to just go along with the movie, accept all the little subplots, and enjoy the ride. And a fun ride at that.
The action is wonderful in this movie but scenes choreographed and shot beautifully, with associated scenery adding real texture and depth to the proceedings. The characters, especially Agent Sands (Johnny Depp) are fun to watch, and the bullets do fly. Explosions, bodies flying, action flowing in and out...there are few dull moments in this film.
The main problem I had with the movie is the plot just got too convoluted. With the number of characters running around, the character of El Mariachi seemed be relegated to a secondary plot thread at times. Maybe this was the intention, but having seen the two previous movies in this series, I think he should have had more screen time. And some of the scenes cut out but put into the deleted scenes section would have helped in some cases to keep the flow of the film moving. There was one scene, where Agent Sands is wearing a really bad fake moustache, and then the following scene he doesn't have it on...a deleted scene shows what happened to it, but had it been left in the movie, it wouldn't have created this minor gap that only served to bring me out of the movie. One minute moustache, the next, no moustache...not a big deal, really, but this happened a couple of other times. Also this movie seemed to lack the chemistry created in Desperado between Antonio Banderas and Selma Hayak. You'll understand more if you watch the movie, as I don't want to give away too much, but their relationship seemed glossed over, probably due to the inclusion of other elements.
The movie looks wonderful, and there are scads of extras in this movie, and they are listed on the product page, so I won't get into them. All in all, a fun, flamboyant, action filled movie with beautiful scenery that got tripped up a little on its' various subplots, losing the viewer in the process at times.