Desperado Becomes Depp-erado
In a way "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is the perfect example of what is wrong with modern cinema. Here we have a movie which looks good, has stylish action, comedy infused violence and star power but the actual story, well it is simply messy. It means that "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is great visual entertainment but that is it, it is cinematic eye candy for those who are happy to just watch and not take in what is happening. And in a way it is a shame as the previous movies in the "El Mariachi" trilogy had both story and action but this time the balance is wrong.
Living a quiet life El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas - The Mask of Zorro) is taken to meet a shady CIA agent called Sands (Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) who wants him to kill someone, General Marquez, (Gerardo Vigil) the same Marquez who killed El's wife. But it is not as simple as that as it seems that Sands is connected to a Drug Baron who is try to topple the President whilst Marquez has plans for a revolution.
I am pretty sure when Robert Rodriguez decided to make "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" he came up with a simple storyline about drug barons, a President, Marquez and El Mariachi. But as he built up this storyline into a movie elements were introduced and scenes were though of till eventually the story had become hidden under a collection of scenes and characters. And that is for me the trouble with this third movie, the story is so hidden behind layers of action, comedy and characters that it becomes a nightmare to follow, going off on tangents and introducing ideas but never doing anything with them.
It means that for me "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" ends up cinematic eye candy, all about the visual with little substance and whilst many audiences love stylized action it is disappointing. Having said that when it comes to action what Rodriguez serves up is visually stunning and it the combination of action, the soundtrack and special effects "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is a rollercoaster ride of fun. Throw in a series of quirky characters from the curious Sands with his collection of T-shirts to Billy with his pet Chihuahua and there is so much going on visually that if that is all you want you will never be bored.
What is also noticeable about "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" is that it has star power, Antonio Banderas is back as is Salma Hayek in flashback footage but we also have Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe and most significantly Johnny Depp. Ironically it is Depp's quirky character of Sands which ends up dominating the movie be it because with his false arm he is quirky or that he seems to be pulling strings in every single scene. I say ironically because I would rather have watched more of Banderas being a bad-ass as El Mariachi than Depp but then there is no denying that Depp is memorable.
What this all boils down to is that as visual entertainment "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" works, it has humour, action and star power delivering this stylish concoction of violence. But that is all it ends up and beneath these layers is a storyline which gets suffocated because the focus is on the big scenes rather than the bigger picture.