Robert Rodriguez’ sequel to El Mariachi and Desperado is more of a witness to something than a story anyone can repeat. Johnny Depp is back in another 2003 film, loopy and dangerous, as a CIA operative trying to manipulate Mexican politics. “El” (Antonio Banderas) is out to avenge the murders of his wife and daughter who represent his country, Mexico. It’s hard to believe that the creator of the family-friendly Spy Kids franchise could produce a trilogy so violent it repels as it fascinates. But Rodriguez has a theme: family and culture.
The All Souls Day motif in Once Upon a Time in Mexico provides the metaphor: masks. They hide all manner of reality and sins. But to cover up truth also can mean not to see the truth. When Johnny Depp loses his eye, the irony is not lost on us. The film is about pain coming deep from the heart – personal and national.