With ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez follows the further adventures of El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas), the guitar-and-gunslinging hero who has been leading a quiet life, but longs to get revenge for the murder of his love (Salma Hayek). When quirky CIA agent Sands (Johnny Depp) roots out El Mariachi for a special assignment, he comes out with all pistols blazing. Soon, a retired FBI agent (Ruben Blades), a drug kingpin (Willem Dafoe), a criminal on the run (Mickey Rourke), and a double-dealing fed (Eva Mendes) are all in on the action, which involves a plot to kill the Mexican president and shift the balance of power in Mexico.
Handling the writing, direction, cinematography, and just about everything else, Rodriguez has crafted a tribute to the spaghetti Western films of Sergio Leone by placing his outlaw hero from DESPERADO and EL MARIACHI in an epic setting populated by numerous characters. Although it can be challenging to keep track of the unfolding subplots, the scenes involving Depp's badly dressed secret agent are the most intriguing and entertaining. Meanwhile Banderas eases back into the lead as the vengeful Mariachi, and Hayek and Blades make the most of their small but significant roles.