8:00 PM, 24th July, 2004
Once Upon A Time In Mexico is Robert Rodriguez's third film about El Mariachi, a Mexican gunfighting hero. From the first El Mariachi, made with a budget of $7000, Rodriguez has now made "the film he wanted to make". The characters in the film have too many ties to tell here so, simply, a CIA agent, played amazingly by Johnny Depp, hires one of Mexico's finest hitmen, El Mariachi (Banderas), to assassinate a corrupt Mexican general in order to thwart drug lord Barillo's (Willem Dafoe) attempts to overthrow the President. Every now and then, Rodriguez tries to deepen El Mariachi through flashbacks of the events leading up to his wedding with Carolina (Hayek). If you ignore the flashbacks, Once Upon A Time is a great film with action and a good story. Well worth a view on those merits alone, but add Johnny Depp to the mix and it becomes infinitely better.
9:57 PM, 24th July, 2004
A drifter (Eastwood) comes into a corrupt and divided town where two families are at war. He sees an opportunity to make money and plays them against each other. As people fall dead left and right, he gets richer and richer.
The first of what became known as The Man With No Name trilogy (the drifter is nameless throughout the series), this is the movie that made Eastwood famous. It's a "spaghetti western"; that is, made by Italians in Europe telling a story of the American West. Unlike most westerns where the good are good and the bad are just plain bad, this film is completely devoid of morals. Everyone is bad. Eastwood himself has no compunction about exploiting people to line his pockets. This doesn't detract from the movie, though. It just makes it a lot of violent fun. It is interesting to note that decades later Eastwood would make the quintessential anti-violent western, Unforgiven.
A Fistful of Dollars is hauntingly scored by Ennio Morricone, and directed with panache by Sergio Leone. Go see what the fuss is all about. You won't regret it. And you won't forget the theme music either.