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FILM REVIEW ***

An Unusual Bedtime Story

‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’ -- Guns, Drugs, and An Ugly Chihuahua

By Ashley Robinson

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Written and Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp

Rated R

One would think after a summer full of shiny action-packed flops, another story full of guns, drugs, and beautiful women would get lost in the shuffle. Thankfully, Robert Rodriguez managed to create such a movie that entertained with more than just flashy special effects and stunts.

“Once Upon a Time in Mexico” continues the saga of the mythical guitar-playing hero El Mariachi, a.k.a. El (Antonio Banderas). After years of solitude following the murder of his girlfriend (Selma Hayek), El is contracted to foil a presidential assassination planned by the drug cartel leader Barillo (Willem Dafoe). El’s motivation is not entirely patriotic, since the general who murdered his girl is also involved.

Johnny Depp joins this cast of fine derriÈres as the crooked CIA agent Sands. Highly manipulative and even more ruthless, Sands takes advantage of El’s gun-slinging skills and thirst for revenge to pit him against Barillo. Depp adds a wonderful and much needed dimension to a movie full of stereotypes and hilarious clichÉs. Sands’ morbid sense of humor has a way of discreetly poking fun of the movie itself, without the feel of an all-out parody.

Expectedly, Banderas sticks to what he does best: he plays with his hair. Granted, he does have some great hair. Sadly, the main character was upstaged by both Depp and Hayek; this is ironic because she’s dead throughout the entire film and appears only as El’s memory. This is not to say that he completely dragged down the film -- he just wasn’t a standout.

But what respectable hero is complete without his own mariachi-playing sidekicks? Lorenzo (Enrique Iglesias) and Fideo (Marco Leonardi) add a light-hearted side to a plot full of murder and greed.

Overall, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” has all the ingredients for success, not to mention lots of guitars, sombreros, and one ugly Chihuahua. It’s fun and smart, but don’t go in expecting a serious movie. When you find yourself about to say “That is absolutely ridiculous,” remember that all myths and legends are about a little bit of truth and a lot of exaggeration.