El Mariachi (Antonio Bandera) returns from his self-imposed exile after personal tragedy, with two sidekicks Lorenzo (Enrique Ilgeslias) and Fideo (Marco Leonardi). The trigger is corrupt CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) who recruits him to sabotage an assassination attempt on the President, plotted by evil cartel kingpin Barrillo (Willem Dafoe). But El Mariachi has a personal score to settle, too.
 

2
A chaotic, confusing, unstructured mess of a movie.

El Mariachi, the guitar-playing gunman from El Mariachi and Desperado, has been lying low since his wife and daughter were murdered. Drug baron Barillo (Willem Dafoe) is plotting to assassinate Mexico's President on the Day of the Dead, and El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is hired to protect him. Meanwhile, CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) has his own game-plan. Tex-Mex Robert Rodriguez was barely out of his teens when he made his first feature, El Mariachi, on a nothing budget, in 1992; it was so successful that, two years later, he was given millions to remake it as Desperado – though, Desperado is both a remake and a sequel.



At the time, Quentin Tarantino is said to have told him he should make a trilogy, like Sergio Leone's Dollars trilogy, so now we have Once Upon A Time In Mexico, shot on digital high definition, transferred to film. Technically the film is notable and shows just how visually beautiful video to film can be in the right hands: but in almost every other respect it's awful. Rodriguez seems to have shot vast amounts of tape and then edited the life out of it, and the result is a chaotic, confusing, unstructured mess of a movie.



Salma Hayek gets second billing, but only appears in flashbacks; Antonio Banderas looks bored, and only Johnny Depp seems to be having fun, as well he might with a character taken straight from the pages of an imaginary comic book. There's action galore, but without a plot that makes any kind of sense, it's all utterly meaningless.