With a title that is an obvious reference to the films of Sergio Leone (who made Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America), Robert Rodriguez wraps up his desperado trilogy in style. The first film was El Mariachi and is a legendary ultra-low-budget production about a guitar player who is on the run. It was the breakthough film that allowed him to remake the film with a bigger budget and stars as Desperado with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.
There are some actors that have “it” and they are very watchable. Banderas and Hayek have “it” and have been able to pull off some great performances in films that may not be so great. They return for Once Upon A Time in Mexico with the addition of another actor with “it” with Johnny Depp. Depp steals the show in a quirky performance where he constantly changes a series of tacky t-shirts. The film is a violent action story of betrayal and revenge - similar to the “spaghetti westerns” of Sergio Leon’s “Dollars” trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) and Once Upon a Time in The West as well as many other, lesser films. The odd history of the “spaghetti westerns” is that they were Italian coproductions featuring American stars such as Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson.
Rodriguez produced, wrote, directed, shot, edited, designed and scored the film which was shot on HD video. It looks gorgeous and has the feeling of the earlier spaghetti westerns with a modern update. While on the surface it is a tale of revenge, there is a fascinating political allegory just below the surface with Johnny Depp as a CIA agent causing destruction throughout Mexico. So while he’s a person, he also represents America, just as Antonio Banderas embodies Mexico. The allegorical content keeps it interesting, but it is a fast-paced action movie that was a lot of fun.