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Once Upon a Time in Mexico(2003)
The saga of the mythic guitar-slinging hero, El Mariachi, continues in Robert Rodríguez’s bravura action epic 'Once Upon a Time in Mexico'. The new adventure is set against a backdrop of revolution and greed. Haunted and scarred by tragedy, el Mariachi has retreated into a life of isolation. He is forced out of hiding when Sands, a corrupt CIA agent, recruits the reclusive hero to sabotage an assassination plot against the president of Mexico, which has been conceived by the evil cartel kingpin Barillo (Willem Dafoe). But el Mariachi also has his own reasons for returning - blood and revenge. The desperado returns with his two trusted sidekicks Lorenzo and Fideo, and the legend of El Mariachi reaches new levels of excitement and adventure.
For more about Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray release, see Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 5, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo
Director: Robert Rodríguez (I)
» See full cast & crew
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray Review
Though more involved than its predecessors, 'Mexico' nevertheless manages to deliver a bloody, action-packed good time at the movies.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 5, 2011
They call him "El," as in "The."
They could have also called him Él, as in "Him," but whatever "he" is called, Robert Rodriguez's gun-toting Mariachi is just plain bad. A superman of the "Mexi-can" variety who eschews the cape in favor of a guitar case full of guns, Rodriguez's lead character is a scruffy, handsome modern-day superhero whose aim is as true as his motives, whose ferocity is equaled only by his unmatched skill on the guitar. El returns for this third installment of the director's Mariachi trilogy, and as "part three's" tend to go, this one's the least of the bunch. It also happens to be the most expensive and by far the most star-studded, and it's also the most complex, the film attempting to weave more than the basic A-to-B-to-C plots of El Mariachi and Desperado and instead come up with something that mixes political intrigue, double-crossing, hidden identities, and all sorts of dramatic chaos in with the series' hallmark over-the-top but oh-so-fun, high-flying, wholly unrealistic, and double-the-guilty-pleasure violence. The added plot and shift in focus from "El" to several additional characters only seems to confuse the structure and sacrifice what made the first two pictures so great, but even considering how convoluted the storyline may be, there's still enough excess violence in true Robert Rodriguez style to satisfy fans of the series and make Once Upon a Time in Mexico worth a watch.
It's been some time since "El" (Antonio Banderas, The Mask of Zorro) fought the good fight against Moco and pursued the criminal kingpin Bucho. He's settled down with Carolina (Salma Hayek, Grown Ups), but El's ugly past is about to catch up with the happy new family. Unfortunately, familial bliss is shattered when El, his wife, and daughter are caught in the crossfire in a shootout against General Emiliano Marquez (Gerardo Vigil). Some time later, El is recruited by a rogue CIA agent named Sands (Johnny Depp, Secret Window) to kill Marquez. The general is a central player in a planned coup against the sitting Mexican President. Behind the scenes of the coup is the devious Mexican drug kingpin Armando Barillo (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man) who is himself targeted by a former FBI agent (Rubén Blades, The Devil's Own), also hired by Sands. As identities are revealed and allegiances challenged, violence erupts and threatens to not only tear apart Mexico, but the very fabric of good and evil in a showdown between heroes and villains that promises far-reaching personal and political consequences for all involved.
Call it an homage to the Spaghetti Western or a modern-day answer to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but Italy's scrumptious gunslinging celluloid Fantasies never had this much fast action and slick styling. Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a dazzling triumph of sight and sound, a masterpiece of violence-as-art, but unlike its predecessors, it attempts to weave in a story that's as complex as its high-flying visuals, and they ultimately don't mix as well as Rodriguez likely imagined. Mexico is fun in spurts and works well as a good-old-fashioned story of revenge, but instead of focusing solely on "El" and his quest for blood with a few necessary but ultimately anecdotal side characters to bring the story full circle, Rodriguez populates the film with a plethora of additional characters, all with their own complex arcs, that seem only to get in the way of, rather than prop up, the series' -- and what should be the film's -- bread-and-butter: guns, guns, guns. When the violence is on and the bullets are flying, Mexico is a success, regardless of whether it's El or any other character pulling the trigger, including an amazing sequence featuring a recently-blinded individual involved in a deadly shootout. Rodriguez's penchant for crafting top-of-the-line action sequences is unquestioned, and his talent is on full display here, but one can't help but feel like the movie could stand for a little less talk and a lot more action, to quote a popular Country tune, to stay in line with what made El Mariachi and Desperado such great films.
Nevertheless, Once Upon a Time in Mexico weaves its story in such a way that the action does remain the focus; it's just not as front-and-center as Desperado fans might have wished. Though Mexico's ultimately an inferior film, it's not for a lack of effort. To solidify something of a convoluted script that relies heavily on flashbacks and hidden allegiances, identities, and motives to tell its story, Rodriguez has brought on board a veritable who's who among contemporary Hollywood actors. Banderas and Hayek (sadly in a limited role) return, as does Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo playing a different, here longer-haired character who seems to favor guns over knives, and the film also features the likes of Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Eva Mendes, and Rubén Blades. While most of them never quite disappear into their roles -- even Banderas seems more like Banderas rather than "El" -- they all elevate the film on several levels, not only lending to it their good looks and professionalism, but adding a bit of star power that helps offset the slight disappointment that is the script and the shifted focus away from El and into the darker political and personal intrigue of its side characters. Still, Rodriguez continues with his excess action scenes that are as unrealistic as the A-list actor roster is long; no matter, watching bad guys get thrown several feet backwards thanks to the blast of a sawed-off shotgun and with the help of some fancy wirework is part of what makes this and Rodriguez's Mariachi series so great. His action is as robust as ever, and even if the story isn't quite all it's cracked up to be, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a fun exercise in Action movie excess that's not to be missed.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray, Video Quality
Once Upon a Time in Mexico is one of the early digitally-filmed pictures, and it looks borderline spectacular through the prism of Sony's near faultless 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Detail ranges from strong to exceptional; close-ups of faces reveal every pore on the actors' faces, while the transfer is also adept at picking up the finest textures as seen on El's new but unfinished guitar or the many roughly-textured stone, brick, and concrete places and things around the frame. Colors favor a warm, yellowish/orange tinge, but the transfer also reveals brighter shades -- vibrantly green trees or loud outfits, for instance -- crisply and naturally. Flesh tones do feature that heavy orange push, but blacks appear true throughout. The transfer is meticulously clean, free of any unwanted debris and featuring minimal noise. Unfortunately, light banding, a touch of shimmering, and one or two unnaturally jagged edges are visible, but such seem inherent to the source rather than a fault of the transfer. All said, Once Upon a Time in Mexico looks consistently strong, with several scenes bordering on the superb. Another job well done by Sony.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It wouldn't be a Robert Rodriguez Mariachi movie without a killer soundtrack, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico's DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack doesn't disappoint. This room-filling, heart-pounding listen leaves no sonic stone unturned; there's no shortage of volume with any of the picture's many sound effects, most of which represent some form of devastating weapons fire. Shots erupt from all over the soundstage, sending lead through the listening area and shattering glass and spraying blood every which way but tangibly real. With the raw volume comes not only tremendous power but also the necessary clarity to bring it all together. Mexico's track is a bit more refined than Desperado's, but it's not quite as active. Both offer superb listens, but this one seems just a bit more grounded in reality. The track also excels in delivering precision musical notes as well as seamless environmental ambience in the form of light blowing winds, chipring insects, or even the metallic clank-clank-clank of El's spurs. Sony's high-octane lossless soundtrack does the film proud, and with the final piece of the puzzle -- pitch-perfect dialogue -- firmly in-place in the center speaker, this track may be labeled an unequivocal winner.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Once Upon a Time in Mexico arrives on Blu-ray with a host of extra content, the package headlined by an audio commentary track, another "film school" feature with Director Robert Rodriguez, the interactive "Cutting Room" tool, and a selection of deleted scenes.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Once Upon a Time in Mexico might not be the equal of El Mariachi and Desperado, but it's still a darn good little picture that's packed with adrenaline-charged action scenes that are sure to satisfy even the most demanding audience. True to Robert Rodriguez's style, he's made Mexico appear to be a far bigger movie than its budget suggests, much of which seems spent on bringing in an incredible amount of talent to try and sort out the film's somewhat convoluted plot. While the story never finds the same level of excellence as the action, Mexico works as a solid final picture in the Mariachi trilogy, albeit one that requires a little more brain power than the other two demanded. Sony's Blu-ray release of Once Upon a Time in Mexico is all fans could have hoped for. Packed with extras and sporting a strong technical presentation, the last in the Mariachi trilogy is a winner on Blu-ray. Recommended.
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Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - January 4-10 - January 4, 2011
Director Robert Rodriguez has spent his entire career creating films that fail to conform to Hollywood's pre-conceived notion about what an action film should look like. Thankfully, he doesn't seem to have any desire to stop. His latest film Machete, which is out ...
• Desperado / El Mariachi, Once Upon a Time in Mexico Blu-ray Annou... - November 1, 2010
Confirming earlier retailer information, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has officially announced the Blu-ray release of Desperado / El Mariachi (on a single-disc double feature edition) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Both have a final street date of January ...
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