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Once Upon a Time in Mexico

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I went into this movie with high hopes. Sure, it’s gotten decidedly mixed reviews, but lots of great movies do. Johnny Depp really raised the bar earlier this summer with his amazing performance in The Pirates of the Caribbean, and Antonio Banderas is always a crack action film star, and Salma Hayek, well, Salma Hayek is proof of a benevolent God, as James Lileks said.

That said, I wasn’t expecting that much, either. Desperado was basically a high class B-movie, and El Mariachi was a low class C-movie. Not that that’s a bad thing. Sometimes you just want to go to a movie, eat some popcorn, watch some stunts, and cheer for the hero. Well, skip the popcorn. I wish they sold hard boiled eggs at movie theaters.

The handcuffed sequence that David Edelstein complained about really was as exciting as he thought it should be. I didn’t think it was confusing at all… and so it’s a flashback? Who cares? Well, to tell the truth, I did, but only because Hayek was totally wasted, only used in flashback, and even then without many lines or even that many sexy poses.

Depp was excellent, I thought, the CIA agent who wanders around Mexico in a well-worn CIA t-shirt making shading deals with shadier characters. The supporting cast was both famous and good, with Willem Dafoe as the evil drug cartel leader based on the guy that died on the operating table a few years ago getting his face changed to unrecognizability. I think this was also a reprise of the evil character in El Mariachi. I never realized that Desperado was a prequel, and I guess that makes the new movie a loose remake.

Mickey Rourke plays Dafoe’s brutal, chihauhau toting henchman, and he’s great, too. He’s puffy, greasy, and oh-so-Rourkian. Sometimes you just have to roll the potato.

Enrique Eglesias sucked. So does Justin Timberlake.

Banderas was awesome as the tormented mariachi out for revenge, but that was expected. Banderas is pretty much a constant, he turns in decent performances in movies both good (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, The Mask of Zorro) and bad (Assassins, that awful one with Lucy Liu).

I’m not going to recommend this one either way, it’s not good enough to tell diehard action haters to go see like Pirates was, and it’s not bad enough to dissaude the action fans. Only thing I’ll say is that if you can’t stand blood and gore, this one’s not for you, it’s extremely brutal at times.

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