DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Robert Rodriguez
Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Leonardi, Cheech Marin
Writing Credits:
Robert Rodriguez

The time has come.

Leaping back into action, gun-slinging, guitar-toting hero "El Mariachi" is back in town in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, as director Robert Rodirguez delivers the epic final chapter of his pulp western trilogy. Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Enrique Iglesias and William Dafoe, Once Upon a Time In Mexico is a full-frontal assault.

Box Office:
$29 million.
Opening Weekend
$23.424 million on 3282 screens.
Domestic Gross
$55.845 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1

Runtime: 102 min.
Price: $26.96
Release Date: 10/26/2004

• None

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Once Upon A Time In Mexico: Superbit (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 16, 2004)

Many directors put out two films in the same year, but in 2003, Robert Rodriguez did something very unusual. Not only did he release both and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, but the two movies came out within seven weeks of each other! That’s a pretty rapid turnaround, but that fits with Rodriguez’s personality and style.

In another unusual move, both of these flicks ended trilogies, and Mexico did that in a different way as well. The story started with 1993’s micro-budgeted El Mariachi and continued with 1995’s Desperado. The weird part came from the recasting of the lead between flicks; with Desperado’s higher – though still relatively low by Hollywood standards – budget came a “name” actor in Antonio Banderas.

Eight years later, Banderas remains in place as Rodriguez finishes the story of the Mariachi. We quickly get reacquainted as we see El Mariachi (Banderas) and his love Carolina (Salma Hayek). We learn that she once was with General Marquez (Gerardo Vigil) who didn’t want to let her go, so they attempted to kill him. Carolina put a bullet in Marquez’s heart but he didn’t die.

From there we meet a mysterious dude named Sands (Johnny Depp) who has his thugs nab Mariachi. We find out that the cartel run by Barillo (Willem Dafoe) will pay Marquez to assassinate the current Mexican president (Pedro Armendariz). Sands wants Mariachi to kill Marquez but not until after the general slays the president.

The film presents a fairly complicated plot, but it mainly boils down to that story. The entire tale leads toward a climactic Day of the Dead speech by the president at which the planned assassinations will occur. We also find out what happened to Carolina.

My synopsis makes the movie sound pretty simple and straightforward, but unfortunately, it becomes quite convoluted. That creates one of the movie’s main weaknesses. The plot follows a rambling path and doesn’t go in terribly logical ways. Its tone shifts fairly radically for little discernible reason. Rodriguez manages to tie things together acceptably well, but the film often feels scattered and unfocused.

The flick also suffers from “guest star-itis”. In addition to the actors already mentioned, Mexico features moderately known performers like Mickey Rourke, Ruben Blades, Enrique Iglesias, and Eva Mendes. At times it feels like the movie tries harder to fit in all these performers and their plots than it attempts to maintain a coherent story.

This means that the Mariachi often comes across as a guest in his own flick. He comes and goes without much impact and doesn’t seem like a primary participant. Carolina particularly offers little presence; to see Hayek billed second among the various players seems odd given her essential absence from the film. Depp comes across as the main player in the flick, but even he vanishes for long periods. This leaves the movie without much focus.

A lot of these issues make more sense when you learn about the film’s production. It went through rushed circumstances, and some of the actors – especially Hayek – appear little simply because they weren’t available to do more than that. Knowledge of these restraints allow us to better understand why the film takes the path it does, but this information doesn’t actually compensate and the results any less disjointed.

Not that Mexico lacks any positives. Rodriguez continues to display his talents as an action director. He pulls off some genuinely exciting set pieces. In particular, one in which Mariachi and Carolina escape from a fifth-floor window while chained together seems inventive and fun. A few more good scenes appear, and these give the film life at times.

As usual, Depp provides a fine performance. He makes Sands a glib and light performance that seems both amusing and entertaining. None of the other actors display any real problems, but only Depp manages to stand out from the crowd. In his limited time, he makes a real impression and creates the flick’s best moments.

Unfortunately, these bits pop up too infrequently to make Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The movie has its moments, but these don’t occur often enough to allow the film to prosper. Mexico gives us some sporadic entertainment but remains something of a disappointment.

The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus F

Once Upon a Time In Mexico appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Note that this doesn’t represent the film’s theatrical aspect ratio; Mexico ran in theaters at 2.35:1. From what I understand, Rodriguez shot the film at 1.78:1 on hi-def cameras and then cropped it to 2.35:1 for theatrical exhibition. Why’d he decide to go back to the original 1.78:1 ratio for the DVD? I have no idea, though I thought the framing seemed fine as I watched Mexico.

Whatever the case may be, Mexico presented a consistently attractive picture. Overall, sharpness seemed satisfying. Occasionally some wider shots showed the slightest softness, but those didn’t occur with any frequency. The majority of the flick came across as very accurate and distinctive. I noticed no concerns connected to jagged edges or shimmering, but a smidgen of edge enhancement cropped up at times. Print flaws seemed absent. I noticed no signs of grit, marks, or other defects in this clean transfer.

Colors presented a strong aspect of the transfer. Rodriguez gave much of the film a lush look that promoted warm red and golden tones. The hues always came across as rich and firm. Black levels were also deep and taut, and shadows were solid. Low-light situations demonstrated good definition and delineation. Overall, the movie offered a fine image.

Similar thoughts greeted the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks of Once Upon a Time In Mexico. If any variations occurred between the two, I couldn’t discern them. I felt both tracks were virtually identical.

The soundfields seemed nicely engaging and active. The tracks used all five channels quite aggressively, as the mixes featured a lot of distinctive material. Music showed good stereo imaging and offered a fine sense of environment. The film’s many action sequences created a lot of opportunities for dynamic elements, and it did so well. Occasionally I thought these seemed a little too “speaker specific”, but they mostly blended together well and formed a fairly seamless feeling of placement. The surrounds kicked in with a great deal of material, especially via the many gunfights.

Audio quality appeared solid. Speech was consistently natural and concise, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music seemed a little subdued at times but mostly came across as acceptably vibrant and dynamic. Effects were consistently clean and accurate, and they packed a nice punch when necessary. Bass response seemed quite good; lows were deep and tight and didn’t suffer from excessive looseness or boominess. Ultimately, Mexico offered a very good soundtrack.

How did the Superbit DVD compare to the original release? I thought both demonstrated identical audio, but the Superbit improved the visuals slightly. It seemed a little tighter and better defined, with a bit less murkiness. There’s not an enormous difference, but the Superbit offered the superior picture quality of the pair.

Unfortunately, the Superbit version of Once Upon a Time in Mexico loses all of the extras found with the prior edition. Since that disc’s supplements offered some good information, fans will find it tough to choose between them. The Superbit presents the movie in the best manner, but the regular release is no slouch. Personally, I’d stick with the original edition, but those with a jones for the best visuals will want the Superbit.

To rate this film, visit the original review of ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO