Comfortable and Furious

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

Written and directed by Robert Rodriguez

– Johnny Depp as Sands
– Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi
– Salma Hayek as La Mariachi
– Some other people
– Mickey Rourke

Jonny is at the end of his rope…

Mini-Review for the people in the theater who clapped at the end of this movie/were bothered by all the subtitles:

You’re an idiot and you’re fucking retarded!!! Don’t have children, cause they’ll be as dumb as you and then what chance will they have? Fuck you, fuck Hollywood, fuck Robert Rodriguez and fuck Once Upon a Time in Mexico.

Actual Ruthless Review

Unfortunately, in our lifetimes, we are going to see many bad movies. It is basically unavoidable. The medium that is film is an art form that the whole world loves. We want to watch movies. Given enough free time, the average human being could watch movies easily for twelve hours straight. Wouldn’t even be a problem. We like movies so much that we’ll even watch bad ones, often. Defining exactly what a bad movie is, like defining pornography, is difficult. I know it when I see it. I just watched Once Upon a Time in Mexico; I saw it.

We have a little pet project here at Ruthless called The Ruthless Guide To 80s Action.
In it we essentially make fun of all the dumb, overly violent, homoerotic action movies that so owned the box office during Reagan’s reign of terror. Robert Rodriguez, the director of Once Upon a Time, ought to read our guide. Because his new movie (like many of his movies) fucking sucks. It is gratuitous, preposterous, disingenuous,
mendacious–you think of a derogatory word that ends in “ous” and I’ll bet you twenty bucks you can apply it towards Once Upon a Time.

Let’s start with gratuitous. I’m trying to think if I have ever seen a more violent film. Safe to say that City of God looks like You’ve Got Mail by comparison. I don’t think I have. When I was twelve years old, I used to always try and get my dad to watch movies with me. But see, kids are stupid, so I really honestly wanted to watch trash like Raw Deal.
Invariably, my father would refuse, explaining to me that he couldn’t stand movies with guns in them. I never understood. Now, don’t get me wrong, my dad was not some pinko-commie-treacherous-liberal-democrat who wanted to go door-to-door and round up the white man’s weapons.

Far from it. In fact, my father damaged his hearing by firing a rifle at a bullet casing, which he happened to be holding in his other hand with a pair of pliers. No, the older I get the more I realize that my dad hated movies with guns in them because by and large, they are fucking boring.

Meaningless death after meaningless death after meaningless death. It would almost be nauseating, but by and large my attention wanders and I begin wondering why every teenager in every movie theater I’ve been to over the last three years is on their phone while the movie is playing. Has ADD gotten that out of control? I digress… Once Upon a Time in Mexico is so banally violent that even serial killers will be turned off. Or sleeping. Violence can be done well; violent acts can be romanticized by the camera to great effect. Look at the films John Woo made in Hong Kong (like Hard Boiled). Violence is their core, their dance, their , yet they are compelling.

Since everything in Once Upon a Time was done for the sake of style, nothing had meaning, nothing captured my fancy, none of the God only knows how many deaths I witnessed had any impact on me, or anyone else in the audience, at all. Using the matrix we developed in the Action Guide I would guess that around four hundred people meet their maker in this movie. That’s like two a minute. That’s insane, that’s boring and that is the very definition of gratuitous.

Bad Guy

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is preposterous, and I can prove my assertion by giving the following plot summary; Johnny Depp is a CIA operative working in Mexico. He wants to find El Mariachi. He gives Cheech Marin $10,000 in a Clash Of The Titans
lunchbox. Antonio Banderas revises his role as El Mariachi and is living on top of a church, hanging out with a bunch of luthiers who live below and make their guitars in tents. Danny Trejo shoots Banderas’s friend, who two minutes earlier gave Banderas a guitar, for essentially no reason.

That of course makes El Mariachi go to work for Trejo, who is really working for Depp. Banderas begins having flashbacks about his dead wife (Salma Heyak) and this really mean general guy that killed her. Willem DaFoe is this drug cartel dude who for some reason has hired the mean general to kill El Presidente. Cause he’s the bad guy. But Depp wants El Mariachi to kill the mean general guy. El Mariachi is very sad all the time and thinks about nothing but avenging his wife and daughter’s deaths. Oh, El Mariachi might be a ghost or a phantom or something.

El Presidente, Banderas, DaFoe, Trejo and every other principle in the movie except for Depp and Rourke (more on Rourke in a bit) are all supposed to be Mexican. El Presidente, Banderas, DaFoe and every other principle in the movie, including Depp and Rourke, all speak English. I love that American audiences are so dumb that the president of Mexico has to speak English, otherwise we’ll bitch about subtitles. USA! USA! Continuing. Turns out, everybody is screwing everybody else and Johnny Depp (finally) sticks his hand up Cheech Marin’s ass. Um, Banderas kills pretty much everybody, except that towards the end the camera is cutting so quickly that you can’t really
tell what is happening, so maybe this retired FBI agent killed some people. Maybe he killed DaFoe? No one knows. At the end, Heyak asks Banderas what he wants from life, to which he answers, “To be free.”

Which is fucking insane!! Dude, you just murdered like two or three hundred people. By yourself! You’re a sociopath. You may as well have answered her question by saying, “I want to be an alligator.” Oh yeah, the very, very last scene is Banderas kissing the Mexican flag. Which makes as much sense as having Jeffrey Dahmer singing the National Anthem at the end of a biopic.

Not only is he rolling over in his grave, but Brandon Lee never got no check
for $10 million. On to disingenuous. This one is a little trickier because I covered
much of it above, and you really have to think about the bullshit politics Rodriguez is slinging in Once Upon a Time, and you really shouldn’t have to do that. No fun. I’m going to try anyhow. At one point the mean general’s troops are attacking what is presumably
the capitol of Mexico. El Presidente lives there, at any rate. Anyhow, “the people” take to the streets to defend El Presidente and his regime. I repeat, “the people.” You know how conservatives are constantly attacking multicultural studies programs, and essentially
post-modernism as a whole? [Ed Note: See The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom] You know, with sentiments like, “How come you have African American studies, women’s studies, Latino studies, Native American studies and gay studies, but you don’t have straight white male studies?” The battle that takes place at the end of this film, at
least to me, it perfectly exemplifies why Lincoln’s party is so hopping mad at the ivory towers.

The attack takes place on Dia de los Muertos. Of course, in the tall, tall tale that is Once Upon a Time in Mexico, it is only referred to as “Day of the Dead.” Cause we’re so stupid. As a result of the battle going down on this day, you’ve got all “the people” out marching in the street already. So, when the mean general’s troops start firing upon them, “the people” do stuff like mount .50 machine guns on taco stands (I swear to God) and begin killing the fascist oppressors.

How indigenous. However, one scene just absolutely took the cake. A middle-aged woman is standing in the street wearing that kind of multicolored skirt you would see tacked to the wall at El Torito. She has bandoleers draped over her shoulders and has a
six-shooter in each hand. You can just feel the purity of her ethnic-essence as she begins to fire away at the oppressors. It was hard to hear exactly what she says because of the bazookas and tanks firing all around her, but I think she said, “Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, the Goddess, this one’s for you.” It was all just silly pandering to some false idea of a pure, innocent “people,” who will nobly fight for what is right and just and true.

That given the chance, they will kill indiscriminately on the side of the great Coyote spirit. Absolute phony-bologna bullshit that plays into the minds of young folks who think Rage Against the Machine is subversive and couldn’t tell you the continent Che Guevara was from, let alone the country. Meanwhile in real life, writer/director Richard Rodriguez probably wipes his ass with hundred-dollar bills.

Kids of today can relate to mass-murderers
on cell phones

Mendacious means pretty much the same thing as disingenuous, so I’m not going to get into it. Once Upon a Time in Mexico is just a disaster that leaves you feeling numb and sad. The only honestly nice thing I have to say is that I really like seeing Mickey Rourke up on the big screen again. Can’t somebody just hand him a decent script already, one that stars him? I digress. Don’t see this movie. Seriously, you’d be better off renting and watching McBain. Come to think of it, the two films basically have the same plot. If
nothing else, hopefully I have discouraged you from filling your brain with one more bad movie.

Ruthless Ratings:

  • Overall: 2
  • Acting: 4
  • Directing: 3
  • Story: 0
  • Rewatchability: 1

Special Ruthless Ratings:

  • Number of times you though Johnny Depp looked too similar to how Brandon Lee looked in The Crow for it to be a coincidence: 12
  • Does Eva Mendes have a super sweet rack: Yes
  • Do you know what the hell Willem DaFoe was doing in the movie: No
  • Does he: No
  • Number of times you cringed: 30
  • Number of times you and your sister started laughing while the rest of the theater was either clapping or keeping quiet: 7
  • Number of jokes you got before the punch line was delivered: 2
  • Number of motorcycles that appear out of nowhere at one point: 3 Dozen
  • Do all the bad guys wear sunglasses all the time: Yes, because sunglasses means attitude.
  • Number of times you thought about asking the in the box office for your money back during the film: 2
  • Once the film was over: I was too depressed to form sentences.
  • Did John Woo and Guy Ritchie give birth to Rodriguez: Obviously.