Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Produced by Robert Rodriguez
Elizabeth Avellan
Carlos Gallardo
Written by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Antonio Banderas
Salma Hayek
Johnny Depp
Mickey Rourke
Eva Mendes
Danny Trejo
Enrique Iglesias
Marco Leonardi
Cheech Marin
Julio Oscar Mechoso
Tito Larriva
Rubén Blades
Willem Dafoe
Music by Robert Rodriguez
Cinematography Robert Rodriguez
Editing by Robert Rodriguez
Studio Troublemaker Studios
Distributed by North America/Japan:
Columbia Pictures
Dimension Films
Release date(s) September 12, 2003 (USA)
Running time 102 min.
Country Template:Film USS
Language English
Budget $29,000,000
Box office $98,185,582

Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a 2003 action film written, edited and directed by Robert Rodriguez. It is the final film in the "Mariachi Trilogy", which also includes El Mariachi and Desperado. Antonio Banderas reprises his role as El Mariachi. The film also stars Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek, Willem Dafoe, Enrique Iglesias, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes and Rubén Blades.

The film received positive reviews but was criticized for reducing El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) to an almost secondary character in his own trilogy, and also for having a convoluted plot. In the special features of the film's DVD, Robert Rodriguez has explained that this was intended, as he wanted this to be the The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the trilogy.

The film holds the box office record for being the most improved second sequel of all-time grossing 122% more than Desperado. This film was shot in May 2001 before Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over in order to avoid a potential Screen Actors Guild strike. It was not only the first film Rodriguez ever shot digitally in HD (instead of 35mm film) but was also one of the first high budget films shot in HD pre-dating Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.



El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is recruited by CIA agent Sheldon Sands (Johnny Depp) to kill General Emiliano Marquez (Gerardo Vigil), leader of a guerilla force who has been hired by Mexican drug lord Armando Barillo (Willem Dafoe) to assassinate the President of Mexico (Pedro Armendáriz Jr.) and overthrow the government. Many years ago, El Mariachi and his wife Carolina (Salma Hayek) confronted Marquez in a shootout and wounded the general; in retaliation, Marquez took the lives of Carolina and their daughter in an ambush. In addition to El Mariachi, Sands convinces former FBI agent Jorge Ramírez (Rubén Blades) to come out of retirement and kill Barillo, who had murdered his partner Archuleta in the past. Furthermore, AFN operative Ajedrez (Eva Mendes) is assigned by Sands to tail Barillo.

While monitoring Barillo's activities, Ramírez meets Billy Chambers (Mickey Rourke), an American fugitive who has been living under the protection of Barillo, but can no longer stomach the horrible tasks he's been forced to carry out for him. Ramirez convinces Chambers he will provide him protection in exchange for getting closer to Barillo by tagging Chambers' pet chihuahua with a hidden microphone, and Chambers agrees to complete the deal by surrendering to U.S. authorities once Barillo has been taken down. Cucuy (Danny Trejo), who was originally hired by Sands to keep an eye on El Mariachi, tranquilizes El Mariachi and brings him to Barillo's mansion. Cucuy, however, is promptly killed by Chambers while El Mariachi escapes from captivity and calls his friends Lorenzo (Enrique Iglesias) and Fideo (Marco Leonardi) to assist him in his mission.

While monitoring Barillo's activity outside a hospital, Ramírez notices armed men storming the building and follows suit. He discovers that a group of doctors have been gunned down and Barillo has bled to death as a result of a botched facial reconstruction, but realizes that the corpse on the operating table is a body double before he is knocked out and kidnapped by the real Barillo and Ajedrez, who reveals herself to be Barillo's daughter. Sands realizes his mission has been compromised, but is too late, as he is captured by Barillo and Ajedrez—who drill out his eyes before sending him out. Despite his blindness, he manages to gun down a hitman tailing him with the aid of a chiclet boy.

As the village celebrates Day of the Dead, Marquez and his army storm in and attack the presidential palace. The guerrillas, however, are met with resistance from not only the Mexican army, but the villagers and the Mariachis. Marquez enters the presidential palace, only to once again confront El Mariachi, who shoots out his kneecaps before finishing him off with a headshot. Ramírez, who was released from captivity by Chambers, faces Barillo. After Barillo guns down Chambers, Ramírez and El Mariachi kill the drug lord. Sands manages to shoot the sadistic Ajedrez dead outside the presidential palace. Ultimately, Lorenzo and Fideo walk away with the loot that Barillo was using to pay Marquez, and escort the president to safety. Ramírez walks away, having accomplished his job. El Mariachi gives his part of the loot to his village before walking into the sunset while Sands begins his new life as a blind man.


In a 2003 issue of Rolling Stone, Depp was named as one of its "People of the Year", and gave an interview in which he briefly discussed his role as Sands: "The idea behind him is there was this guy I used to know in Hollywood, in the business, who on the outside was very charming – soft-spoken and almost hypnotic in the rhythm he used to speak. He refused to call me Johnny – always called me John. You knew this guy was aiming to fuck you over, but somehow you stuck around because he was just so fascinating to watch."[1] Depp also said in an Entertainment Weekly article that he "imagine[d] this guy wore really cheesy tourist shirts", that he had a "sideline obsession with Broadway", and that he favored strange, obvious disguises – all three qualities can be observed in the film. It was also revealed in the director's commentary on the DVD that Depp himself came up with the character's first and middle names.[2]


Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released September, 2003
Genre Soundtrack
Latin rock
Length 51:44
Label Milan Records
Professional reviews

The reviews parameter has been deprecated. Please move reviews into the “Reception” section of the article. See Moving reviews into article space.

Robert Rodriguez film soundtrack chronology
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Sin City

The score of Once Upon a Time in Mexico includes songs composed by director Robert Rodriguez and performed by a group of musicians gathered specifically for the soundtrack recording. Tracks performed by the group includes "Malagueña" with guitar by Brian Setzer and "Siente Mi Amor", with singing by Salma Hayek. Track 9, "Sands' Theme," is credited to "Tonto's Giant Nuts" but was in fact written by Johnny Depp (who invented the name 'Tonto's Giant Nuts' as a joke. It is not the name of his band, as commonly thought). On the DVD director commentary, Robert Rodriguez states that he requested that each of the main actors give him four or eight notes of a melody for their character, but Depp presented him with the entire track.

Additional music includes Juno Reactor's "Pistolero," "Me Gustas Tú" by Manu Chao and "Cuka Rocka" by Rodriguez' own rock band, Chingon.

Track listing

  1. "Malagueña" (Brian Setzer) – 4:22
  2. "Traeme Paz" (Patricia Vonne) – 2:56
  3. "Eye Patch" (Alex Ruiz) – 1:51
  4. "Yo Te Quiero" (Marcos Loya) – 3:48
  5. "Guitar Town" (Robert Rodriguez) – 2:04
  6. "Church Shootout" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:38
  7. "Pistolero" (Juno Reactor) – 3:38
  8. "Me Gustas Tú" (Manu Chao) – 3:49
  9. "Sands (Theme)" (Tonto's Giant Nuts) – 3:24
  10. "Dias de Los Angeles" (Rick Del Castillo) – 5:08
  11. "The Man With No Eyes" (Robert Rodriguez) – 2:09
  12. "Mariachi vs. Marquez" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:33
  13. "Flor del Mal" (Tito Larriva) – 3:13
  14. "Chicle Boy" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:30
  15. "Coup de Etat" (Robert Rodriguez) – 3:02
  16. "El Mariachi" (Robert Rodriguez) – 1:22
  17. "Siente Mi Amor" (Salma Hayek) – 4:24
  18. "Cuka Rocka" (Chingon) – 1:44


Once Upon A Time in Mexico was released on September 12, 2003 in 3,282 theaters with an opening weekend gross of USD $23.4 million. It went on to make $56.4 million in North America and $41.8 in the rest of the world for a combined total of $98.2 million, well above its $29 million budget.[3]

The film received a generally positive reception with a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 56 metascore on Metacritic. Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three out of four stars and wrote, "Like Leone's movie, the Rodriguez epic is more interested in the moment, in great shots, in surprises and ironic reversals and closeups of sweaty faces, than in a coherent story".[4] A.O. Scott, in his review for the New York Times, wrote, "But in the end, the punched-up editing and vibrant color schemes start to grow tiresome, and Mr. Rodriguez, bored with his own gimmickry and completely out of ideas, responds by pushing the violence to needlessly grotesque extremes".[5] In her review for USA Today, Claudia Puig wrote, "In Mexico, Rodriguez has fashioned a swaggering fantasy that pays homage to spaghetti Westerns such as Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Plenty of blood is shed, lots of powerful artillery is fired, and action sequences provide astounding car crashes and fiery explosions".[6] Entertainment Weekly gave the film a "B" rating and praised Johnny Depp's performance with its "winking grace notes of Brandoesque flakery ... is as minimal and laid-back as his Pirates of the Caribbean turn was deep-dish theatrical".[7]


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