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Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003) – DVD Review

Once Upon a Time in Mexico DVD


Written and Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Cheech Marin, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique Iglesias, and Gerardo Vigil


  • Running audio commentary with writer/director Rodriguez
  • “Ten Minute Flick School”
  • Inside Troublemaker Studios featurette
  • Deleted scenes
  • “Ten Minute Cooking School”
  • The Anti-Hero’s Journey
  • Film is Dead: An Evening with Robert Rodriguez
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Bloody: special effects featurette
  • DVD-ROM: Test your Wits in the Shooting Gallery and the Loteria

Released by: Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment
Rating: R
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]El Mariachi (Banderas) just can’t get a break. It seems that in the time since we were last with him, he has married Carolina (Hayek) and fathered a child by her. That all goes right to hell when a corrupt Mexican General named Marquez (Vigil) guns his wife and daughter down in cold blood. It takes an corrupt CIA agent named Sands (Depp) to provide him with the opportunity to finally exact his revenge. He’s just not ready for the fact that Marquez is also wrapped up in a plot to overthrow the Mexican President and take over his government. So, it seems that El Mariachi might be able to use his revenge for the good of the people of Mexico.

Okay. I had an absolute ball watching this movie. I enjoyed it from the very first viewing; but, it was only in that This Is A Cool Movie To Watch kind of way, not in that Oh My God There Has Never Been Another Movie Like This One kind of way. This movie goes a lot farther toward the campy side than did its predecessor, and it somehow works. Depp creates such a vivid character that you love to hate him. Banderas seems like he was never out of the one spur and old, dusty jeans, and he handled that famous guitar case like he had never taken his hand off it in the interim. If there is anyone who is somewhat wasted in this movie, it’s Hayek and it’s just a shame. Not just because she’s easy to look at, but because her character had been given an amazing backstory in the interim time. It’s just a shame that there couldn’t have been more done with that.

One thing is for sure, Rodriguez knows how to write and tell a story. This movie jumps in with both feet kicking and doesn’t let up until you are completely black and blue and begging for more. If you have not yet seen Desperado or its “father film,” El Mariachi, then by all means, go out and rent all three tonight and watch them. Or better yet, just buy them.

I suggest buying them because this DVD is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Not only are the special features original, they also seem to dump Rodriguez and his incredibly welcoming personality right into your living room asking for a Coke and a smile. What’s even better, is that one of the special features takes you on a tour of his studios that he has built into his home. With all of the success that he has had with his movies–and he’s one prolific bastard–he has built himself quite an amazing studio in his home. Not only does he give you a tour, he shows you some of the ways that he likes to work. He’s a big proponent of the use of technology to take the creation of his (or any) artform to a much higher level.

Which leads me to two of the other special features. They are dedicated to the fact that this movie was one of the first to be shot entirely in the relatively young HD Digital format. I’m not going to bore you with the details of what this is. Buy the DVD and let one of the experts tell you better than I ever could. The first shows all of the shots that they used for post-production visual effects and how the use of the digital format allowed them to design these shots on the set with the actors on the fly. This is only ten mintues long, but it is outstanding. The other is entitled “Film is Dead” and it’s Rodriguez giving a lecture on the wonders of shooting a movie in the digital format and the freedoms that it endowed him with on this production. This, along with his commentary track, are the reasons to buy this DVD.

Since I mentioned it, the commentary tracks are some of the best I’ve seen. Rodriguez knows his material and is not afraid to talk about it. However, I believe, what makes these commentary tracks so amazing is that Rodriguez seems like he could make a lecture on economic theory as exciting as game seven of the World Series. I’m talking bases loaded with two outs in the ninth inning, here. It’s not that he’s full of excitement, but you can tell that he loves what he does and can’t wait to share it with you. It’s so refreshing.

Perhaps the best feature on the DVD is the ten minute cooking school that has Rodriguez in his own kitchen with a small hand-held camera showing you how to make the dish that Agent Sands made so infamous in the movie. I love this because he actually has a philosophy that makes sense to me. He aruges that you are going to have to eat for the rest of your life. So, pick about five or six dishes that you absolutely love and learn how to cook them and cook them well. Once you get the basics down, you can begin to play around and experiment with them. After you have gotten to the point of knowing how to make these dishes, you can put together a little menu of the stuff that you like to cook. Then, if you have some friends over, you can have them choose from the menu and you can cook them a dinner that they’ll never forget. He also suggests this highly for single men. It’s a great way to get chicks.

There are deleted scenes on the DVD which, believe it or not, are best watched with the commentary tracks. This is where Rodriguez tells us of his passion for his movie, but also for the pain of having to cut something in the first place. There is also a brief featurette on the character of El Mariachi and Banderas’ and Carlos Gallardo’s (the original Mariachi) creation and evolution of the character over the three movies. There is also a featurette about the making of the special effects that talks about the fact that Rodriguez threw this movie on his special effects guys without very much prep time.

Finally, there is some DVD-ROM content to talk about. There are two games that need mentioning. The first is nothing more than an old-fashioned shooting gallery game for the PC. It’s very well done, I just don’t suggest playing it with the touchpad of a laptop. The other game is just frustrating. It feels like a trivia game, but it’s more like a role-playing game when you get right down to it. In the Loteria, you are presented with several cards from which to choose. As you turn each one over, you are presented with a scenario and a question you must answer. If you answer incorrectly, you’ll die…but the game keeps going. It’s really wierd. I think I got killed with almost every answer that I chose. Not only that, but there’s really not much in the way of payoff.

I strongly suggest buying this DVD. The supplemental material put together by Rodriguez should not be missed.