Sep 172003
Authors: Jeremy Anderson

“Once Upon a Time in Mexico”

Ten years ago, director Robert Rodriguez introduced moviegoers to the film and title character, “El Mariachi.” The low budget, Spanish language film was remade in 1995 as “Desperado.” Rodriguez amplified his budget, star power and action for this second installment starring Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek in the lead roles of the Mariachi with the guitar case filled with guns and his sweet and sultry girlfriend, Carolina.

Now in 2003, the “El Mariachi” trilogy concludes with “Once Upon a time in Mexico.”

Joining Banderas and Hayek for the ride this time are Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Enrique Iglesias, Eva Mendes and many more, actually too many more. One of the film’s main faults is that there are so many characters, including several nonessential ones, that the film stumbles trying to fit them all in and make them important to the story.

As a result, there ends up not being a definite main character. If any of the actors get more of a focus than the others it would have to be Johnny Depp who actually appears on screen more often and has more to do than Banderas’ Mariachi.

Perhaps the biggest let down in “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” is the almost complete exclusion of Salma Hayek. The film was marketed through trailers and posters as having Hayek’s character as a main player in the movie, however, if you have seen the trailer or TV spots, you have seen all you will see of Salma Hayek in the film. This is disappointing since two of her very minimal appearances on screen are two of the movie’s best scenes. Her character added a lot to “Desperado” and her disappointing absence here hurts the film as well as the expectations of fans.

It is a good thing though that Johnny Depp is onboard as a morally corrupt CIA agent. Depp’s character is the most interesting as well as entertaining character in the film, and seems destined to have his own spin-off movie in the future. His presence gives the film a lot of spark.

Despite all my disappointments with “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” I still liked it and will undoubtedly enjoy it way more upon repeat viewing now that I know what to expect. It is not as good as “Desperado” but it cinematically stands on its own a decent finale to the “El Mariachi” trilogy.

3 out of 4 rams

“Cabin Fever”

Over the summer, movie audiences were introduced to the British horror movie “28 Days Later” about a virus that turns its victims into zombies. On a slightly more realistic level comes “Cabin Fever” about a flesh-eating virus infecting a group of teen-agers on vacation out in the woods.

Once the virus starts taking its toll on the hormone-crazed victims, “Cabin Fever” manages to pack in a few scenes that will literally make your skin crawl. After seeing this film, women will surely shudder every time they shave their legs.

Despite several gory scares, “Cabin Fever” intermixes the tension with some of the most frustratingly awkward scenes I have ever seen in a movie. These scenes usually involve characters that are not part of the core group. For instance, one scene has a strange, young boy screaming “pancakes!” before breaking into some slow motion kung fu. Why this happens, I don’t know, but it is just one of several scenes which are not weird in a horror movie kind of weird, but weird in a why-is-this-happening-and-please-make-it-stop kind of way.

On a side note, the victims in “Cabin Fever” obviously never went to college. If they had, they would have learned the eventual message of the film: drink beer!

2 out of 4 rams

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