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HomeNewsArchives'TIME IN MEXICO' IS WELL SPENT WITH EL MARIACHI

'TIME IN MEXICO' IS WELL SPENT WITH EL MARIACHI

Sept. 16, 2003 – In 1992, director Robert Rodriguez made "El Mariachi" for $7,000 — the first film of a trilogy which ends now with "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," which upped the ante to $30 million.
Rodriguez, a Texan, produced "El Mariachi" for the Mexican video market with basically unknown actors, but it went on to win the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival.
He followed that with "Desperado" in 1995, graduating to name actors — Antonio Banderas, Selma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Quentin Tarantino. Banderas and Hayek also star in the current film, along with Johnny Depp and Enrique Iglesias.
According to Roger Ebert, Tarantino put a bug in Rodriguez' ear about this current film, telling him the previous two were the Mexican equivalent of Sergio Leone's acclaimed "spaghetti Westerns" in the '60s, notably Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West," a hard act to follow.
Most reviewers think Rodriguez has followed that act this time with élan. "He sill hasn't learned to structure a story so we care about what happens," Ebert says, but "I didn't care. I liked the bold strokes he uses to create the characters, and I was amused by the camera work, which includes a lot of shots that are about themselves."
Now, to the story: Banderas is "El Mariachi," of course, described by one critic as the "Mexican Clint Eastwood." (Yes, but how about the eyes? In this previewer's opinion, Banderas doesn't even have to act; he can just gaze.) But then, the story: Okay, so the guitar-slinging hero El M. is enlisted by shifty CIA agent Sands (Depp) to track down a bad guy named Barrillo (Willem Dafoe), a drug cartel biggie with a score to settle (so to speak) against the president of Mexico, whom he plans to take down. Sands wants El M. to stop the plot against the president. Depp's performance, by the way, is described by one critic as "ineffably hilarious," a combination not to be missed.
El M. is in self-imposed exile after the death of his wife, Carolina (Hayek), and their daughter, and he takes to the challenge Sands presents him with the lust for retribution in his blood. It turns out Sands is probably as corrupt, himself, as Barrillo.
In one of the movie's many flashbacks, Carolina wields four knives, killing four men simultaneously. (If that's how she died, she certainly did it with panache.) And there's a dynamite supporting cast — Reuben Blades, Eva Mendes, Mickey Rourke and Cheech Marin, of Cheech and Chong. Ebert says that Rourke's role is to "carry a little dog in his arms, (likely a chihuahua), seem sinister, and seem capable of more colorful dialogue than the screenplay provides."
No matter. With all that talent running around loose, put on your serape, grab a bag of Doritos, and slide right out to Diamond Cinema I.
The film is rated R for strong violence and language, and runs 101 minutes.

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