A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has constant extremely graphic and intense violence. It's so over-the-top it is hard to take seriously but still may be upsetting to some viewers. There are many character deaths, including a mother and her child. One character has his eyes gauged out and one has his knees shot out. There are scenes showing very grisly plastic surgery. Characters use extremely strong language. There's drinking and smoking and references to a drug cartel.
What's the story?
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO is the third in director Robert Rodriguez's series that began with the $7000 El Mariachi and continued with the quasi-remake/sequel Desperado. If I had to explain the story, it would be something like this: Everyone shoots everyone else outdoors. Everyone shoots everyone else indoors. Lots more people shoot other people. But boy oh boy, they sure do it with a lot of style. This is the kind of movie where a rogue CIA agent played by Johnny Depp asks someone, "Are you a Mexi-CAN or a Mexi-CAN'T?," kills a chef because he made a pork dish too well and therefore threw off the balance of the universe. This is the kind of movie where a sensationally beautiful woman reveals her magnificent thigh when she reaches back to grab a handful of knives from her garter and then flings them to take down a bunch of bad guys who are aiming their guns at her husband. A $10,000 payoff is presented in a Clash of the Titans lunchbox. Blood splatters on the camera lens. A guitar case contains an arsenal. And lots and lots and lots of stuff gets blown up.
Is it any good?
I guess if there really was a story or characters in this movie, the violence might be too disturbing. But Robert Rodriguez, who not only wrote and directed this movie but also "shot, chopped, and scored" it, too, doesn't so much omit story and character as transcend them. This is a kinetic and voluptuous pulp fantasia, a mythic nightmare pastiche of stylish slaughter, featuring twisted iconic figures destroying each other and just about everything else in sight with a lot of flair. Rodriguez is indisputably a masterful film-maker. He fills the screen with lots to look at and no one is better at creating propulsive energy through striking images, brilliantly edited.
Depp, Antonio Banderas, and Salma Hayek are all sensational. Pop star Enrique Iglesias makes a very respectable acting debut and Eva Mendes is very fine as an FBI agent who wants more. This film is worth watching just as an education in how to shoot and edit. Someday, perhaps, Rodriguez will become more of a story-teller. In the meantime, the film is very entertaining for anyone who does not object to the carnage, and a must-see for fans of hard-core action.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: September 4, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2004
- Cast: Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek
- Director: Robert Rodriguez
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: extremely graphic violence and really rough language not to mention drugs and alcohol
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