Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Once Upon a Time in Mexico. B

The movies of Sergio Leone, as well as the title of one of his several masterpieces, serve as a major inspiration to the conclusion of Robert Rodriguez' Mariachi Trilogy. It's meant to be the big finale (both in scope and budget) to the trilogy, much like The Good the Bad and the Ugly was to The Man with No Name series. But the movie is clearly not as good the films it's inspired by, and when you add up all the complaints about it, it comes down to its running time of just 96 minutes (102 including the credits). Why is this movie so short? Rodriguez has an abundance of rich characters (as well as the hero, who, in comparison of everyone else, is pretty stale) who are all part of an intricate plot involving a presidential assassination. My problem, and what seems to be the public's in general, is that the plot is too busy and the characters aren't given the attention they need to make this the true epic conclusion it aspires to be. The solution isn't to make the story less complicated and take out some of the characters because that would defeat the original purpose. All Rodriguez needed to do was stretch out the running time, not to the three hours of Leone's film, but to a moderate 120 minutes. As it is, the movie's still not bad, and definitely an improvement over Desperado. Like its predecessor, it's about revenge, but it also has a plot involving a host of secondary characters, all driven by a zany CIA man, played by Johnny Depp. The story is complicated and underdeveloped because of the film's brevity, but in the end I still knew what was going on. Ultimately the disappointment lies in the fact that Rodriguez, despite going for something far more ambitious, shows his greatest skills are style and action. He's not a storyteller like his pal Tarantino is. But he knows how to deliver action, and the scene in this, when Banderas and Hayek are chained together while escaping their enemies, is one of the finest action pieces I've ever seen. So Once Upon a Time in Mexico gives us Robert Rodriguez at his best. But unfortunately such a compliment doesn't have the same power as it does when referring to the great filmmakers of our time. Rodriguez is cool, but he ain't one of them.

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