Once in Mexico

Extravagant and kind of goofy final installment in Mariachi series

A DOG IN THE HAND <br>Mickey Rourke (Billy) holds on to that puppy while Willem Dafoe (Barillo the drug lord) waits for the Mariachi

Mickey Rourke (Billy) holds on to that puppy while Willem Dafoe (Barillo the drug lord) waits for the Mariachi

Once Upon a Time in Mexico Starring Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe and Selma Hayek. Directed by Robert Rodriquez. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

The exuberant absurdity of the latest installment in the Rodriguez-Banderas El Mariachi series reeks of extravagant spoof, but I’d say the thing is more goof than spoof. The title echoes those of Sergio Leone’s most ambitiously over-the-top epics (Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America), but Rodriguez is emulating more than spoofing and recycling Leone’s operatic spaghetti into his own brand of Tex-Mex guacamole with a flamboyantly fictional Mexico playing itself out in real Mexican locations.

Antonio Banderas, the man with the machine-gun/guitar, continues to do his flamenco/kung fu/Mexi-Matrix thing here, and Rodriguez takes care to give him moments of demigod dignity and demonic menace amid the campy macho swagger, the throwaway surrealism and assorted absurdist escapades. Character and story seem to revel in kitsch but without sacrificing a certain comic gravity.

But Banderas is only one part of OUATIM. Multiple sideshows are a big part of the fun—outlandish dream sequences, a nutty FBI retiree (Ruben Blades) doing suspense movie soliloquies, Cheech Marin bluffing his way through digressions disguised as expository dialogue, cowboy-hatted Mickey Rourke as a chihuahua-carrying criminal who would love getting extradited from Mexic0 to a nice American jail. And Selma Hayek with star billing but appearing only in flashbacks and dream sequences.

And we still haven’t mentioned Johnny Depp, who just may be the true presiding spirit and the guiding light of hipster goofing in this episode. He plays a jive-talking CIA agent with a flair for outlandish costumes, which may or may not be disguises. He is also the victim of one of the film’s detours into horror film territory, but even that comes off as some sort of hipster put-on—especially in that it provides him with an occasion to do some comic riffing on Oedipus Rex and the Blind Samurai, simultaneously.