An action thriller/comedy released in 1995, Desperado put Robert Rodriguez right at the top of our favourite filmmakers’ list. Starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek, the movie has it all: Good looks, dry sense of humour, seductive music, an imaginative, comic-book-like direction and in parts, a bit of a plot.
Having come right after Rodriguez’s independent debut titled “El Mariachi”, a film that he released in 1992, Desperado was his second entry in the Mexico trilogy, and the movie that really put Rodriguez on the map. The plot, simple and nothing new story-wise, even for 1995: El Mariachi (played by Antonio Banderas) arrives in a Mexican town to take revenge for his ex-lover’s murder. Assisted by Carolina (portrayed by Salma Hayek), El Mariachi finds himself in a never-ending series of shootouts and saloon-style confrontations that remind us of spaghetti westerns and make us see why the writer/director has in numerous cases worked closely with Tarantino.
Salma Hayek is first introduced to American and European audiences here, and together with Antonio Banderas, the two actors achieve the perfect balance between action and comedy and maintain an effortlessly comical pace throughout their performances, never allowing a dull moment on screen. Rodriguez’s script and direction very creatively bring comic-books onto screen, and introduce us to the director’s trademark style: quick cuts, fast camera movements and humour that counterbalances the violence.
And in 2003, we got what we wanted. Once Upon A Time In Mexico was the final film of Robert Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy, and although it received positive reviews, it was criticized for having an over-complicated plot for no good reason. Which is true, and at times the film feels like it’s dragging more that it should, tiring some of its viewers. Not me, however, and what we love about Rodriguez, and what we hoped to get from him, is definitely there.
Shot, chopped and scored, Once Upon A Time In Mexico has Antonio Banderas reprise his role as El Mariachi and come back to our little Mexican town, this time to avenge the death of his latest ex-lover, Carolina. Again gunshots and colourful killings make up the most part of the film, and when no one is dying a funny death, then we either enjoy the gorgeous Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek inventively escaping the villains, or we laugh with the clever and mischievous lines that were given to Sands, Johnny Depp’s character.
With great performances from every big name taking part in the film, including Eva Mendes, Enrique Iglesias, Willem Dafoe and Mickey Rourke, a hilariously dark script and a thrilling, western-cultured direction, Once Upon A Time In Mexico is the most entertaining film in the series, even if El Mariachi and Desperado win in quality. Being by far the darkest and meanest of the three, it certainly amuses me the most.