Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Initially Published Here

Over a decade after making his bones with El Mariachi (and eight years since he remade the film for Hollywood as Desperado) director Robert Rodriguez returned once again to his guitar slinging assasin in 2003 for, presumably, the final installment of the series. The action pieces and special effects are less threadbare than before but the story is still bare bones -- something about military coups and drug cartels and everyone is double-crossing everyone else. It amounts to an excuse to revel in some serious B-movie bravado. People fall balletically from balconies, bodies are propelled by unseen springboards as fireballs explode and a street fair is always a sign that a shootout is soon to follow.

Antonio Banderas plays things a little too straight here. He exhibits precious little of the lunk-headed charm he brings to his best roles. But the rest of the cast (Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo) all seem to having fun. This goes double for Johnny Depp who really seems to get off on trying to keep a straight face while parading through the film in an array of increasingly ugly T-shirts. His utter lack of seriousness perfectly compliments Rodriguez's grindhouse sensibilities.

This new Blu-ray edition looks and sounds terrific and features a slew of extras -- some wholly expected (deleted scenes, commentary track) but some fun surpises as well. Rodriguez narrates a little tutorial on how he managed to make the film on the cheap and on the fly and, in my favorite bit, spends some time in the kitchen showing you how to make his favorite pork dish. He could have a second career as a Food TV host.

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