All that a normal Hyderabadi male understands about Mexico is that it has Salma Hayek in there. One needs to play a guitar, murder all beings with a gun (occasionally even by pulling the trigger) and speak with a bizarre accent to get anywhere near her, and when you do, her pony-tail brandishing Mariachi would take a particularly sharp pair of scissors and cut off your...
Knowing this much dope is very impressive for someone who's not very involved with Mexican politics. Roberto Rodriguez is, similarly, very impressive in his knowledge of the powers of Lady Hayek. His plot also should've have orbited around her rather than injecting Mexican politics into it. But once you've seen his earlier El Mariachi and Desperado, you come to this one as much expecting a plot as expecting bubonic plague.
El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas without the idiotic kids and gadgets) is forced out of his exile to avenge Salma's murder by General Marquez (Gerardo Virlgil). The General is trying an assassination on Mexico's President during a coup attempt. The coup is being orchestrated by Barilla (William Dafoe).
Johnny Depp is a rogue CIA agent who leaks this info to Mariachi. He wants to stop the assassination attempt, as well as get away with some 20 million pesos involved. Now one would think that CIA is a holy institution after decades of Tom Clancy and Hollywood scripts. But in reality, CIA agents wear T-shirts with slogans like: "I'm with stupid" with an arrow pointing downwards. Depp absolutely revels in this role of a double-crossing unscrupulous agent with envious ease.
Mickey Rourkey, Enrique and a bunch of other characters are thrown into this already yucky gravy. It makes the smart twists and wits actually come in the way of the brutal gun tedium expected. But after a few minutes, Rodriguez gives up and lets the movie race on without much mind-bending.
So, after some trademark music, guitars and guns that only Rodriguez knows how to simmer on a perfect flame, the end product is a little burnt. Though Mariachi manages to save the Prez and all that jazz, the patriotism is obviously pseudo when you know he's actually doing it for Salma. Which brings us back to a full circle.
Her presence in the movie is quite momentary. Her escape sequence where she's handcuffed to Antonio while both are swinging from the building tops like lost baboons, is very vague. It's like a music video where you expect the viewers to make some sense of all the nonsense.
Johnny Depp is the sole soul of the film. His presence is alone worth the price of admission. With goofy wardrobe changes, shockingly violent personality quirks and the best lines in the film, Depp chews up the scenery and other actors. He swaggers through his scenes with a malevolent ease that reveals the film's general goal of good fun. The only performance to beat this one came from him in Pirates Of The Caribbean. The rating went up phenomenally because of him.
Eventually, Once Upon... is a frustration with ultra-popular stars wasted grossly. But it's still worth a watch for all the guns and Johnny Depp fans. Even if we said it isn't, you wouldn't listen, would you, now?