Having not seen any of director Robert Rodriguez’s previous films such as “Desperado” and “El Mariachi,” which are the prequels to “Once Upon A Time in Mexico,” I went to the opening night of the film with an open mind. I was refreshingly surprised, though apparently, according to Rodriguez fans, I would have been sorely disappointed if I had seen “Desperado.”

The film had all the right ingredients beginning with a very stellar cast. Johnny Depp, fresh off his genius comic turn in the summer blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” introduces a new character into Rodriguez’s world with the role of CIA Agent Sands. He is the comic relief for the duration of the film, even after he is tortured horribly and left quite in need of a seeing-eye dog.

The luscious Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek reprise their roles from “Desperado.” Willem Dafoe is the perfect villian who gets into a very icky “Hannibal” meets “Face Off” situation that leaves him literally unrecognizable.

For an added bonus Enrique Iglesias – pre-mole removal – makes his film debut as one of the Mariachi’s – Banderas’ – singing henchmen.

Along with Rodriguez’s imaginative directing style and a fast-paced plot that required a good deal of audience attention, I felt it was a good, action-packed, over the top violent film.

The complaints from “Desperado” fans – many of whom I saw the movie with – was that “Once Upon a Time” didn’t have that raw quality that Rodriguez’s previous films possessed. At times “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” was almost cheesy in its attempts to be funny – Depp on a cell phone asking someone, “Can you hear me now?” – and the fight scenes were a bit of a John Woo rip-off.

Another major complaint by many of the male audience members was that the trailer falsely advertised Hayek as having a bigger role instead of the three scenes she appears in – in which she has a total of ten lines.

Though I don’t think she could have done many more action scenes being that she was wearing a thinly veiled sarong and what I believe to be a napkin as a top.

The best scene of the movie was actually a flashback when studly Banderas and the lovely Hayek find themselves chained together and then having to try to dodge bullets from every direction. Of course, jumping out of the window (be it they are still chained together), is the only solution and it results in them literally hanging on for their lives. Over all I think the film was quite good though for the record I have not seen Desperado so I am not biased. There is also a chihuahua who plays a pivotal role in the plot and he definitely gives Bruiser Woods of “Legally Blonde 2” a run for his money.

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