Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Johnny Depp is on a roll. First he swashbuckles off with Pirates of the Caribbean. Now he steals every scene he's in as Sands, a rogue CIA agent who doesn't let a small thing like getting his eyes gouged out stop him from a gunfight. He slips on a pair of shades to hide the blood dripping from his peepers and hires a kid to tell him where to aim. You don't want to miss Depp in this movie — he knocks it out of the park.

So what if the plot's a maze? Writer-director Robert Rodriguez keeps the action nonstop. There's blood everywhere — and this from the creator of the Spy Kids films. In honor of Sergio Leone (Once Upon a Time in the West), Rodriguez ends the trilogy he started with the super-low-budget ($7,000) El Mariachi in 1992 and continued with Desperado in 1995 in epic style, shooting on high-def digital video.

Antonio Banderas — looking every inch the romantic hero — is back as the mariachi. Brooding over a tragedy involving his wife (Salma Hayek), the balladeer who hides guns in his guitar case helps Sands stop drug lord Barrillo (hammed to the hilt by Willem Dafoe) from killing Mexico's El Presidente. That's all the plot you'll get here. Just sit back and let Rodriguez take you to popcorn-movie heaven.

From The Archives Issue 298: August 23, 1979