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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Russian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
  Subtitles
    English, Russian, English - Hearing Impaired, Hindi, Commentary - English
  Extras
  • 8 Deleted scenes
  • 2 Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • 6 Featurette
  • DVD-ROM features - 2 games
  • 4 Filmographies

Once Upon a Time in Mexico: CE

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 98 mins . MA15+ . PAL

  Feature
Contract

Thereís something to be said for Robert Rodriguezí style of filmmaking. Sure itís crap, but itís fun crap.

Here he completes a trilogy of films about El Mariachi, the fabled gunslinger of the New Age who carries a guitar case packed with guns. At the end of Desperado (El Mariachi being the first film, with Desperado the second) we saw El Mariachi (known by no other name) carry Carolina (Salma Hayek) off into the sunset. Here he is a grizzled and troubled man mourning the murder of his new wife and their daughter. It seems the dude who did it isnít dead and when deranged CIA operative Sands (Johnny Depp in supreme Johnny Depp mode) offers him money to take out the president, he accepts it. What he doesnít learn is that the American government want to install the same dude who killed Elís lady in the Presidential hotseat.

"I didnít think youíd ever come back for this thingÖ"

Retrieving his guitar case and his Mariachi brothers, he goes to war. Meanwhile, the CIA is sending more help in, Sands has convinced a retired FBI agent to go rogue and the local cartel kingpin Barrille is working his own secret agenda.

At least, I think thatís what it's about. There are so many characters and conspiracies going on here it gets a little confusing for a dumbarse action film. However, it is still watchable and as a swansong to the trilogy this ambitious film does pale the former releases.

Johnny Depp is having a blast playing a contorting character who seems to chop and change costumes and disguises as readily as the rest change ammunition clips. While his character is entirely overblown and comical for the most part, there is a deeper undercurrent of sinister intent going on that leaves us to understand this guy has spent one too many years in the Mexican sun with no sombrero. Banderas broods more than in the last Mariachi vehicle and with good cause, I suppose. The whole film is essentially hinged on the lack of Salma Hayek in the piece (she was filming the exquisite Frida during the shooting) with her minimal parts (all in flashback) being shot over but four days and edited in digitally in post.

Rodriguez has certainly pulled out all stops and designed yet another actioner that is pure cinema. Itís all action and caricatures of bad guys and is obviously a whole lot of cheap, exploitative fun, but that feeling comes through in the final delivery. Definitely one for those who enjoyed the first two with a swag of good stuff all over the disc to keep the enthusiasts wetting their pants for ages.

  Video
Contract

Shot entirely on digital, the film looks spectacular in its cleanliness and clarity. Even lines and well saturated colour are practically razor sharp and there is no trouble distinguishing detail in the shadows. Blacks are true, with the mostly earth colour palette dominating the entire film. Skin tones are real enough, save for Willem Dafoeís awful Mexican-flesh-tone makeup that is bound to raise a giggle from the audience (it sure did here). The film is delivered in the 1.85:1 ratio and has been anamorphically enhanced to bring every blood-spattered moment to you as clearly as it can.

  Audio
Contract

A generously worked Dolby Digital 5.1 surround package brings earth-shattering sound into your living room and refries your beans. The surrounds work the room with city noise and crowds and help carry the spacious Mexican flavour of the musical score. This soundtrack hasnít been scored by one individual, rather the whole cast have a crack at it, including Depp, Banderas and Hayek, with healthy bangs from Rodriguez himself. Hayek evens decides to give us a song over the closing credits vocalised by the lady herself. Cool.

As to the rest of the soundtrack, hold onto your ears and crank up the sound because this baby gets loud, with the subwoofer ably supporting the multitude of bullets fired at Mariachiís bulletproof arse.

  Extras
Contract

Nicely animated anamorphic menus bring us firstly to the trailers for Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the other Mexican Banderas actioner The Mask of Zorro. Following this we get a shitload of self-made and unusual featurettes (numbering six) mostly from Rodriguez himself.

The first of these is the ongoing series Ten Minute Flick School, in which Rodriguez details the cheap options he used to make the film look as good as it does. This is a brilliant and all too infrequent inclusion here that Rodriguez likes sticking on all his DVDs. This is followed by a quick tour of Inside Troublemaker Studios, which is actually inside his old garage. This is another interesting look at the sound equipment and facilities Rodriguez utilises in production and is very inspirational for all those blossoming filmmakers out there.

Then the third in this minor trilogy with Ten Minute Cooking School, poorly named at only 5:49. In this Rodriguez shows us how to make the slow-cooked pork meal that Deppís character wets his undies over in the movie. Film is Dead: An Evening With Robert Rodriguez is essentially a 13:18 long lecture, from Rodriguez as he speaks to students and others in an auditorium somewhere about his own processes. He certainly loves his work and good on him.

The Anti-Heroís Journey is the electronic press kit-like synopsis of El Mariachiís progression through the films and runs for 18:03. Plenty of footage from the original for those who find this film a little hard to track down (though it isnít too hard these days). Finally, for the featurettes, we have The Good, The Bad and The Bloody: Inside KNB EFX which runs for 19:03 and is the usual sort of exploratory trip through the inner machinations of creature and latex effects workshops. Except there arenít any creatures. Well, Cheech Marin, but he doesnít truly count.

Eight deleted scenes come in next with optional directorís commentary and film context followed by filmographies for Robert Rodriguez, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas.

The audio commentary by Rodriguez is pretty much like the featurettes in the way he shows us the tricks and so forth behind the scenes. An interesting AC for the one-man format, if only for the incredible amount of information he imparts. He certainly has nothing to hide here and revels in the cheapness of his films.

After that thereís only some DVD-ROM content;

two games Lotteria (Lottery) and Tiro Al Blanco (Shooting Gallery).

So thereís a heapiní helpiní of slow-cooked pork for you Rodriguez fans. (By the way, I didnít enjoy typing ĎRodriguezí so many times either.)

  Overall  
Contract

This is the third and final (?) film in a trilogy that saw director Robert Rodriguez (sigh) make a lasting impression on Hollywood and action film fans alike. Itís unlikely he will go away in a hurry and one can only wonder at what cheapie heíll bring to the screen next. Once Upon is the most ambitious of the three, with plenty of over the top stunts and action sequences and about a million spent cartridges falling to the floor among bright crimson pools of claret.

It gets bloody for sure, but itís also bloody good fun. Not one for the literati, it might be said, but still possibly challenging for anyone just after a no-brainer action movie with so many interwoven characters. However, donít let that deter you from the fun; just be aware that everyoneís a baddie and it doesnít matter who dies.


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      And I quote...
    "Not one for the literati, it might be said, but still maybe challenging for anyone just after a no-brainer"
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
          Akai
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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