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PCR # 182  (Vol. 4, No. 38)  This edition is for the week of September 15--21, 2003.

This Week's PCR
Movie Review
"Once Upon A Time In Mexico"

Movie review by:
Michael A. Smith

Three stars

Movies are rated 0 to 4 stars

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"Once Upon A Time In Mexico"
by Mike Smith
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What's In A Name?....Michael, Val, George, --- CHRISTIAN?....He's Going To Sing!....Slip And Slide And Sue....Congrats 1 & 2....Speaking Of....Passing On....Legends
 by Mike Smith
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Columbia Pictures     
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke and Willem Dafoe
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hour 42 mins

Ah, he finally listened to me. I've often said that Johnny Depp needed to find a better agent. Sure, he was doing great work. He even made some big blockbuster films. Remember A Nightmare on Elm Street? How about Platoon? Did you know that Depp was in these movies? Probably not. He wasn't a star back then, just another character. His best work, in films like What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and Ed Wood, hardly made a dent in the box-office. Well, he must have finally followed my advice. Earlier this summer, Pirates of the Caribbean took Hollywood by storm, grossing over $250 million and still going. With the final film in director Rodriguez' trilogy he strikes gold again.

In 1992, Rodriguez premiered a film he had made on a shoestring budget of $7,000. That film, El Mariachi, caught the eye of Columbia Pictures, who financed his next project, 1995's Desperado, a big-budget version of his low-budget original. After taking time to do From Dusk 'til Dawn and not one, but three Spy Kids films, Rodriguez has finally returned to his roots, delivering a satisfactory conclusion to the story of El Mariachi!

Told in the presence tense, with some flashbacks thrown in for good measure, the film opens with El Mariachi (Banderas) living in a small town in Mexico. He is forever haunted by the image of the death of his wife (Hayek) at the hands of a corrupt military general. A wanted man because of his violent past, El (as he is called) is soon tracked down by a group that want him to kill the President of Mexico because he is coming down on the drug cartels. Enter CIA agent Sands (Depp). You know he's a CIA agent because he wears a T-shirt with CIA boldly printed on the front. Of course, in small print it reads "Cleavage Inspection Agency." Full of phony mustaches and spouting lines like, "Are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-CAN'T," Depp is obviously on a different page then his fellow agents. When he can't find a briefcase small enough for a cash bribe he results to making his payoff in a "Clash of the Titans" lunch box. To call him quirky is an understatement. His plans include double crossing not only the murderous general but the head of the drug cartel (Dafoe). Thus begins the tale that is Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

In just 10 short years, Robert Rodriguez has become a true visionary in films. And there is no doubt that the vision is his. Not only does he write and direct his films, he also photographs, edits and scores them. Even in his Spy Kids series he showed a great eye for staging action and he doesn't disappoint here. Each scene is choreographed like a fine dance number. And, like a quick dance, they leave you breathless. Banderas excels as a kind of Mexican "man with no name" whose reputation precedes him wherever he goes. Dafoe oozes "bad guy" from his jet black hair and pencil mustache. It's a pleasure to see Mickey Rourke back on the big screen, even though he is starting to really resemble Nick Nolte, circa 1998.

But the story here is Depp. He has finally stopped being the tortured artist and is learning to have fun with his roles. I'm glad he finally listened! On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Once Upon A Time In Mexico  One and a half stars

This week's movie review of "Once Upon A Time In Mexico" is ©2003 by Michael A. Smith.  All graphics this page are creations of Nolan B. Canova, ©2003, all rights reserved. All contents of "Nolan's Pop Culture Review" are ©2003 by Nolan B. Canova.