El Mariachi, the guitar-playing killer in the film of the same name in 1992 who reappeared for 1995s Desperado, is back again for director, Robert Rodriguezs Once Upon a Time in Mexico.
As well as its producer/director/writer and - would you believe? - production designer, Rodriguez is the movies cinematographer, editor and music composer or, as the opening credits inform us, he shot, chopped and scored it. There are of course many others involved in its making but its definitely fair enough to tag it a Robert Rodriguez Film. El Mariachi was made for an inconceivably low $7,000, which is dwarfed by the $29,000,000 allotted to this in which most of that budget must surely have gone towards the creation of action sequences that are so amplified as to be surreal as, in fact, are the characters.
Added to the mix is Johnny Depp as a corrupt CIA agent called Sands who is on a mission in Mexico. Sands is kind of weird - a guy who would just as soon eliminate a good guy as a bad one and for reasons that exist only in his own weird little world. He shoots a chef who makes his favourite dish perfectly because he wants to restore the balance - or something like that. Depp is perfectly cast and very funny in an offbeat way.
Sands hires El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) to kill an assassin - General Marquez (Gerardo Vigil), the man responsible for the death of Mariachis wife, Carolina (Salma Hayek) and daughter. Sequences showing Mariachi with Caroline occur as flashbacks throughout the movie. Marquez - in league with drug lord, Barillo (Willem Dafoe) - intends to assassinate the Mexican president (Pedro Armendariz) during a coup on the Day of the Dead. To stop him, Mariachi recruits his pals, Lorenzo (Enrique Iglesias) and Fideo (Marco Leonardi). Sands is also around to give a hand, although its hard to know just where he stands and when Marquezs men get hold of him, it looks like he wont be much help to anyone. But, then again, there is nothing real about what the characters can achieve in this movie and the final showdown contains some rather bizarre moments.
Technically, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a knockout (shot on the new Sony 24-fps Hi-Def camera) and man-of-all-trades Rodriguez creates dazzling action sequences from go to whoa.