Once Upon A Time In Mexico (Blu-ray Review)

In our previous adventures with our famed guitarista we had several revenge and closure story arcs to abide by.  With Once Upon A Time In Mexico we have come full circle.  Robert Rodriguez pulled a Sergio Leone.  This was to be Rodriguez’s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Was Robert Rodriguez successful?  I suggest you read on and find out.  Once Upon A Time In Mexico is the final film in the Robert Rodriguez “Mexican” trilogy.


When we last left our hero all of the bad guys were dead and he and his woman drove out into the Mexican sunset to live happily ever after.  Yes, he took his guitar case full weapons with him.  Just in case.  Several years later El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) is alone once again.  Carolina (Salma Hayek) and their daughter were gunned down by the evil General Marquez.  It is implied that Marquez and Carolina had a past.  Not to  mention that they both left the General for dead.  El Mariachi now wanders from town to town until he’s brought out of “retirement” by El Cucuy (Danny Trejo).  El Cucuy has a job for him.  To say that Once Upon A Time In Mexico has lots going on would be an understatement.

El Mariachi is brought to Agent Sands who is a psychotic CIA undercover agent.  Agent Sands always orders the same Mexican dish of Puerco Pibil, a slow roasted pork, and kills the cook after his meal.  Why?  Because he’s psychotic!  Again, to say that there is tons going on in Once Upon A Time In Mexico would be to downplay the amount talent brought forth to make the film.  Rodriguez had about a month to finish the film before moving on to work on Spy Kids 2.  In fact, both of these films were in production and pre-production at the very same time.

Willem Dafoe plays the ruthless druglord Armando Carrillo who initially hired General Marquez to kill the President of Mexico and to overthrow the government.  I think they call it a coup d’etat.  Agent Sands later convinces former Agent Jorge Ramirez (Ruben Blades) to come out of retirement and bust him for the murder of his partner Agent Archuleta.  Furthermore, AFN officer Ajedrez (Eva Mendes) is assigned to tail Agent Sands.  Are you still with me?

Make no mistake, for a film that cost less than thirty million dollars to make, it is really epic.  There are so many story arcs and plot lines you’ll go mad trying to figure what’s what.  You can tell Rodriguez was trying to go all out.  Did it work?  Yes and no.  First the no.  El Mariachi has been reduced to a secondary character.  The good is that everyone seems to have about the same amount of screen time, but don’t expect that Once Upon A Time In Mexico will focus on just the Antonio Banderas character.

Robert Rodriguez wore many, many hats on this project.  He was the writer, director, producer, editor, music composer, and cinematographer.  Those are front line credits.  If you happen to check out the end credits you will see that he was also re-recording mixer, visual effects supervisor, and even the caterer.  Oh, and a potential spin off character was introduced, but I won’t say who it is.  Also, please stay after the credits for a little surprise.


Once Upon A Time In Mexico is presented in 1080p 1.78:1.  Theatrically it was presented in 2.35:1, but Robert Rodriguez prefers the open matte screen format.  Once Upon A Time In Mexico was Rodriguez’s first foray into the digital realm.  Considering this was shot in 2002, he was at the birthing of the digital realm along with George Lucas.  The video looks amazing.  I have a friend who says that this looks crappy.  He says that it looks like someone filmed it with a cheap camcorder.  I don’t know what all of that is about, but that’s not true.  There is a hint of grain which may be inherent to the digital source, but the image looks clean.  Skin tones are alarming, because if you thought the skin tones in Desperado looked good then wait until you see this one!  For being an early “shot on digital” film, this is a near reference presentation.


Once Upon A Time In Mexico is presented 5.1 DTS-HD MA.  This here is another near reference audio track.  Again, just like Desperado, the sound engineers spared no expense on bringing the masses an incredible sonic experience.  Bullets, explosions, punches, dialogue are all easily heard and placed, and there are no hints of distortion, pop, or crackle.  It’s a very clean soundtrack.  Crank it up!

Special Features 

Ah, and here we have my favorite part of this release.  The special features!  This was the first of Rodriguez’s fully loaded dvd sets.  This Blu-ray features all of those features.  It gets a blanket 5 star, because these are special features that contain added value.  What Robert Rodriguez presents here can be taken by you or I and implemented into our film projects.  The other thing is that these features were probably created on cutting edge equipment in 2002-2003…it’s 2011!  Do you see where I’m going with this?  Value added content is king.

  • Robert Rodriguez Commentary
  • Ten-Minute Flick School (Rodriguez shoots fast and dirty.  Most actors didn’t even work directly with each other.  Their scenes were “merged” together in the final edit.)
  • Inside TroubleMaker Studios (Robert Rodriguez is the junior George Lucas.  This is a great tour of the Rodriguez compound which is his very own house.  Great stuff!)
  • Deleted Scenes with optional commentary
  • Ten-Minute Cooking School (the first installment of Rodriguez’s cooking school.  Puerco Pibil. A dish so good some people will kill for it…and you may get whacked just for making it.  I should know, I’ve actually made it.)
  • The Anti-Hero’s Journey
  • Film Is Dead: An Evening with Robert Rodriguez (A very cool speech that Rodriguez gave at Sony Studios.  Robert Rodriguez proclaims that shooting on film is dead and that he will now shoot all of his projects 100% on digital.  It’s an awesome talk.)
  • The Good, The Bad, and The Bloody: Inside KNB FX (A very cool featurette on the special effects make-ups used on the film.  Look closer and you will see some of the artists in the shop working on Spy Kids 2 props.)
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts 

The special features on this Blu-ray push the release into higher marks.  I learn something new every time I watch them.  The film is entertaining, but should also not be mistaken as a direct sequel.  This is to Desperado what Desperado was to El Mariachi. You may even say that the films themselves are flourishes of tales whispered along the crowded streets of these Mexican towns and villages.  People’s accounts may vary and none of them will ever match.  The circle is now complete.  You may go forth and purchase the El Mariachi Trilogy.


Bring home Once Upon A Time In Mexico on Blu-ray!


Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

5 Responses to “Once Upon A Time In Mexico (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    While it is the third best in this trilogy, I still find this film to be really entertaining. Great cast, Depp rules, the soundtrack is great, and Rodriguez’s foray into digital photography pays off plenty here. I love all these movies.

  2. Brian White

    I’m stoked to finally be watching this flick on Blu-ray this upcoming weekend. I cannot wait! Thanks for reviewing these Gerard!

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Yeah, it was a very “Mexican” weekend for me.

    El Mariachi
    Once Upon A Time In Mexico

    haha, I even watched Mask of Zorro today.

  4. Jiminy Critic

    rodriguez has a style that is unique to him and fun to watch… Almost forgot about Depp being in this one… Got to see the trilogy for the full effect! Have a good time! (BTW… Does Rodriguez “Text?”) ha!

  5. Aaron Neuwirth

    Almost forgot about Depp? He owns in this movie!