Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Writer-director Robert Rodriguez is listed in the credits as having “chopped, shot and scored” the nonstop action here. This nearly one-man movie machine continues to bend and stretch his cinematic ingenuity with a third visit to the spring of heroism and anguish that flows from the exploits and legend of guitar-playing gunfighter El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas). The plot is no great shakes. El Mariachi is in exile in a rural Mexican village after the death of his wife and child. An amoral CIA operative (Johnny Depp with deadpan cheekiness) brings him out of retirement to keep a drug-cartel boss (Willem Dafoe) from killing the president of Mexico. Revenge and double-crosses play a key role, but it’s Rodriguez’s sensational, highly amped camera work and love of overblown theatrics that make the chaos so fresh, outrageous, seductive and alive.