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File:Once upon a time in mexico verdvd.jpg

Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the third film of the Mexico or Mariachi Trilogy.

The film starts with CIA Agent Sands, played by Johnny Depp, pumping an old man for information on the legendary gunman El Mariachi, notable for using a guitar converted into a gun a guitarcase full of guns as his primary weapon. Throughout the film, El Mariachi's backstory is revealed in a number of flashbacks; prior to the events of the film, his wife and child had been murdered by the ruthless General Marquez.

After he is kidnapped by Sands' henchmen and given several bodyguards, El Mariachi reluctantly participates in Sands' plot to assassinate drug lord Armando Barillo and General Marquez once they had overthrown the Mexican government. Sands also acquires the services of AFN Agent Ajedrez (played by Eva Mendes) and retired FBI Agent Jorge Ramirez.

However, after several betrayals, Sands' complex plot is massively derailed. Epic shootouts and explosions ensue.

Not to be confused with Once Upon a Time in the West or Once Upon a Time in China, nor is it in any way related to Once Upon a Time in America except perhaps as a Shout-Out (there's no question of the influence of Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns on Rodriguez).

Tropes used in Once Upon a Time In Mexico include:
  • The Alcoholic: Fideo. "I don't think. I drink."
  • Ass Shove: A preoccupation of Sheldon Sands.
  • Badass Bystander: The people of Mexico do not appreciate insurgents fucking up their home. And messing with their Presidente.
    • Badass Grandma: At one point, we see an old lady with a pair of bandoliers Dual-Wielding revolvers and taking down three or four of Marquez's troops in quick succession.
  • Badass Crew: El Mariachi and Co.
  • Badass Spaniard: Any character played by Antonio Banderas, and El Mariachi is no exception.
  • Bad Boss: It is implied that Barillo sent his piano teacher to be mutilated — for being "condescending".

 Chambers: You want me to break his fingers?

Barillo: No. I want you to cut them off.

Chambers: Hey, I was just makin' a joke.

Barillo: I wasn't.

  • Bar Brawl: In the flashback in the opening scene.
  • Biblical Motifs: In the commentary, Rodriguez says that the image of Sands staggering around with his eyes put out and bloody 'tears' on his face was inspired by an image of Samson he once saw.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Armando Barillo and General Marquez.
  • Billing Displacement: A retroactive example; trailers for the DVD rerelease mention Johnny Depp first, then Selma Hayek, and don't mention Antonio Banderas at all.
  • Blown Across the Room: Oddly enough, it seems that the victim flies farther if he is shot with a smaller gun. Rifles and carbines cause people to crumple to the floor. El's shotgun sends men tumbling ass over kettle. And at one point, a wounded soldier is shot by what appears to be a holdout pistol and is literally sent sliding across the room.
  • Body Double: Played With. They find a man who generally resembles Barillo. Then they cut off his face and kill him to make it look like Barillo had died getting plastic surgery. Ramirez figures it out when he notices that Barillo's jewelry was poorly fitting on the body's fingers.
  • Briefcase Full of Money: Subverted: Through most of the movie, there is never enough money to changing hands to fill a briefcase, so Sands puts it in lunch boxes. Which the money obviously still doesn't fill. By the end of the movie, the Mariachis end up making off with a sum of money so large, it fills both of their guitar cases and still leaves enough for them to end up stuffing their shirts with it.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Sands is a visibly eccentric character and uses often a pair of fake arms, which eventually turn out to be useful. He uses them to shoot an informant under the table and one last time to kill Ajedrez.
  • Can You Hear Me Now: Sands is constantly talking to someone via his cell phone. You can tell how close his plan is coming to unraveling based on how frantic his calls get before his phone finally gets its service disconnected as he is presumably burned by his associates.
    • And of course, the first thing he says on his cell is "Can you hear me now? Fucking bells." (as church bells are ringing in the background)
  • Captain's Log: Ramirez was constantly giving a running commentary on what he was doing into a concealed tape recorder, presumably to be used as a record of what he thinks is a semi-legitimate investigation into a drug lord.
    • If one assumes that he is the Hero of Another Story (as he is presented in the movie), then this could very well be the source of the narration if he were the star. As it is, he ends up spending much of the movie talking to himself and commenting on whatever foolish thing he is about to do, as well as justifying the fact that he is explaining (to nobody in particular other than the audience watching the movie) the significance of various minor details.
  • Cartwright Curse: By now El Mariachi has had TWO love interests killed.
  • ~Chekhov's Gunman~: The little boy selling gum. Incredibly useful when you've just been blinded.
  • The Chessmaster: Sands, initially.
  • Church Shootout: The first big shootout that takes place in the present day.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: Sands and Ramirez.
  • Comically Small Bribe: In a rare flip, Marin ASKS for a relatively piddling amount of money. Depp brings it, not in a briefcase, but a lunchbox.
    • Marin's character has a reason: he thinks asking for a moderate payoff for his information would keep Sands from killing him. It doesn't.
  • Covers Always Lie - See the above picture with Salma Hayek in it? She's not really a major character because she's DEAD in this film and only shows up in flashbacks. Johnny Depp's Character is also of secondary importance to Antonio Banderas's, yet Depp is in the foreground.
  • Death by Irony: Ajedrez. Killed due to failing to notice that a blind man had a third, fake arm.
  • ~Didn't See That Coming~: Said by the source of it: "You really didn't see it coming, did you."
  • Eagle Land: Sands is a CIA agent manipulating Mexico by tricking a power-mad general, a drug overlord, political handlers, local drug agents, a retired FBI agent, and the mythic El Mariachi into playing against each other to "maintain the balance".
  • Eye Scream: Poor Sands. If you want to know, he got his eyes drilled out, and near the end we get to see his empty sockets. Fun. You get to see the approaching drill from Sands' point of view.
  • Face Heel Turn: Cucuy. It doesn't work out too well for him, though.
  • Fake Nationality: Antonio Banderas is Spanish, not Mexican. And Willem Dafoe is...really, definitely not Mexican, but this was lampshaded in the commentary slightly when Robert Rodriguez explains that he was purposefully playing it over-the-top.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Ajedrez fails to notice that Sands evidently has three arms. And to think he was the blind one.
  • Fair Cop: Ajedrez
  • The Faceless: Barillo, post-surgery.
  • Foreshadowing: Sands tells the boy selling gum that he "...never want[s] to see your face again."
  • Fridge Logic: We know from Sands' conversations on the phones that his contact was unwilling or unable to get the weapons that his people would need to stop Marquez's coup. So where do the townspeople get all that heavy weaponry from? Either they were able to get that kind of firepower on their own, or else Sands' contact came through for him after all.
  • Fun T-Shirt: Sands wears a great variety of obnoxious tourist-y t-shirts throughout the film--Johnny Depp thought the character would be the type to wear them and asked his sister to look around her hometown in Florida for the worst ones.
  • Gambit Pileup
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Most of the dialogue is presumably in Spanish via Translation Convention, but some words are kept in Spanish, presumably for flavor, or for words that don't carry their connotations through a translation.
  • Groin Attack: Done to two mooks during Mariachi's escape from Barillo's compound by grabbing and twisting. OUCH.
  • Guns Akimbo: While not as prominent as the movie's predecessor, the Mariachi does do his share of this, often with different guns in hand rather than a matched pair.
  • Heartbroken Badass: El Mariachi
  • Heel Face Turn: Sands becomes significantly nicer after having his eyes gouged out.
  • Hero of Another Story: Former FBI Agent Ramirez.
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: El Mariachi is Gregorio Cortez, Barillo is the Green Goblin, Chambers is Ivan Vanko and Sands is Jack Sparrow, among many others.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Sands' plot backfires spectacularly on him.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Pretty much any time anyone talks to Agent Sands after he loses both of his eyes.

 See anything you like?

*BANG* ...No.

  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Sands manages to kill a total of three mooks while blind. He first fires a number of wildly inaccurate shots, then when the mooks laugh at him, he zeroes in on the sound.
  • Improbable Weapon User: El Mariachi, Lorenzo and Fideo.
  • The Ketchup Test
  • Kick the Dog: Sands' henchmen shoot the old guitar-maker for no discernible reason. Sands himself shoots the cook of a restaurant because he cooked Sands' favorite dish too WELL. His reasoning was that if this one guy cooked it so great, Sands would never enjoy it cooked by anyone else, so he kills him to "restore the balance".
  • Kill It with Fire: One of the mariachis has a flamethrower disguised as a guitar.
  • Licked by the Dog: Billy Chambers' chihuahua. Literally.
  • Legendary in the Sequel: El Mariachi is regarded as a legendary badass by this film
  • Mad Doctor: Dr. Guevera
  • Meaningful Name: Ajedrez, which means "chess," foreshadowing her strategic manipulation of Sands. May also be a pseudonym to cover up the fact that she's Barillo's daughter.
  • The Mole: Ajedrez
  • Molotov Cocktail
  • More Dakka: A couple of the townspeople convert a taco stand into a rolling mount for a machine gun.
  • Mumbling Brando: Depp did a good one here.
  • Overt Operative: Agent Sands.
  • The Plan: Sands thinks he can pull one off, but it crashes and burns.
  • Pistol-Whipping
  • Redemption Equals Death: Billy Chambers
  • Retired Badass: Ramirez. Also El Mariachi, technically.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Sands is a CIA agent... who wears a "CIA" (Cleavage Investigation Agency} t-shirt.
  • Revenge: Key motive for El Mariachi and Ramirez. Also, arguably, for Sands towards the end.
  • Reverse Mole: Ramirez bribes Billy Chambers into a Heel Face Turn by promising that he would be allowed to return to the United States. He lied. To be fair, he wasn't lying out of villainy. He just didn't have that kind of power anymore. Had he lived, it's possible Sands could've worked out a deal for him.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Both averted and played straight. The conspirators attempting the coup d'etat are clearly evil, but the Mexican people rise against them to defend their government.
  • Rule of Cool: This film practically runs on it.
  • Shout-Out: Sands, blinded, blood running down his face, wielding a machine pistol - a very obvious reference to Kiriyama's final scene in Battle Royale.
  • Smug Snake: Sands
  • Tears of Blood: see Eye Scream
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: So, so often.
  • Thinking Out Loud: Sands with his "Walking my beat" monologue, Ramirez appears to be doing this if you forget that he's literally monologing everything he is doing into a tape recorder.
  • Third-Act Stupidity: The movie would have ended a lot sooner had El Cucuy used a real gun rather than a dart launcher.
  • The Vamp: Agent Ajedrez
  • Torture Always Works: When Ramirez gets captured, a pair of mooks discuss if they should torture the ex-FBI agent. One argues against it: "I was tortured once. I didn't like it. You know what the really fucked up part was? They tore out my left nut. That really turned me off to the whole thing."
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Sands will kill for puerco pibil.
    • Actually, he kills when he finds a chef who cooks it TOO well. Sands is obsessed with the idea of "maintaining the balance" in Mexico, which involves screwing up the nation's politics as well as its restaurant industry...
  • Un Installment: Inspired by the realization that many viewers of Desperado did not originally know that the movie was a sequel to El Mariachi, and thus were confused by the numerous unexplained but obviously important flashbacks, this movie includes many references to important events that took place in the third movie such as the murder of El's wife and daughter.
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him - So many times. Beneficiaries include Sands, El Mariachi, and Ramirez.
  • You Look Familiar: Danny Trejo played a Colombian hitman that was accidentally killed by Bucho's men in Desperado.
    • Cheech Marin also played a character that was killed at the beginning of the second movie and comes back here. It's confusing since he knows about the Mariachi's legends and sports an eye patch (the other character was shot in the head) but it is indeed a different character. Word of God states that he was originally supposed to be the same guy since Robert forgot he was killed and had to be reminded prior to filming.