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Added humor of Depp drives sequel to success

Melanie Ratchford | Monday, September 15, 2003

He’s a myth. He’s a legend. He’s the guitar-carrying, gun-slinging El Mariachi in Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

The concluding tale in the trilogy of the legendary folk hero El Mariachi, which stars Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi, Salma Hayek as Carolina and Johnny Depp as Agent Sands, is more stylish than its predecessors and also features more humor.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico follows the story of Barillo, a major drug lord (Willem Dafoe) who plans to kill the president and overthrow the government with the aid of the corrupt General Marquez. The town’s resident CIA agent, Sands, enlists the help of El Mariachi to take out Marquez (on whom El Mariachi seeks to take revenge), only after he has assassinated the president. He then recruits a retired FBI agent to kill Barillo and his doctor, who, years before tortured and murdered his partner.

Sound confusing? Well, it is. Just when you think you know who is in control and working for whom, you find out you’re wrong. The only character you can easily keep track of is El Mariachi, who, in true hero form, works only for himself.

Everyone betrays everyone else, and the film turns out to be a long trail of blood leading us to the story’s conclusion.

There is a lot of violence; the movie is probably not meant for those who tend to cringe at the sight of blood. But then again, if you’ve seen Desperado, you pretty much know what you’re getting yourself into.

What makes this movie equally entertaining, if not more so than the original, is the added humor, driven mostly by Sands and his sly remarks. Depp, in his normal fashion, once again brings an eccentric character to life in a way that only he can. Slightly crude, and not exactly politically correct, he feeds us a bevy of one-liners and insults you can’t help but laugh at.

There is also an interesting selection of co-stars, including Enrique Iglesias as a member of El Mariachi’s “band” and Mickey Rourke as a United States felon on the run, finding refuge in Mexico with the help of Barillo.

If you’re looking for an Oscar-worthy flick, you’re unlikely to find it in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. However, if you’re looking for two hours of good old fight sequence action and entertainment, you might want to check it out.

Bottom line: if you liked Desperado at all, you’re likely to be a fan of Once Upon A Time in Mexico, enjoying it just as much, if not more. It has a similar feel only it is more consistently violent and much funnier. If you hated the first movie, don’t bother with this one. If you’ve never seen Desperado but like the genre, give it a try. I wouldn’t ask for my money back. You may want to see the original first, though – it makes this sequel a little easier to follow.

Contact Melanie Ratchford at mratchf1@nd.edu