Once upon a time in Mexico

Rating: * * (out of 5)
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Running time: 101 minutes
Language: English
Opens March 6
[See Japan Times movie listings]

Robert Rodriguez is one of those directors who shot to fame in the early '90s, a fabled time when the words "independent movie" and "revolution" were often bandied about together. Along with Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, Rodriguez was one of the edgy young movie brats who was going to bring a new vision to the cinema.

Or so it was said. For the most part, the critics ignored the evidence right before their eyes. Rodriguez' debut, "El Mariachi," was admired more for the director's Roger Corman-esque work ethic (he supposedly shot the film for a mere $7,000) than for its rather routine gun-action content. Ditto for his bigger-budgeted Hollywood debut, "Desperado." The critics -- blinded by a nod of approval from Quentin Tarantino in the form of a cameo, as well as the U.S. debut of Pedro Almodovar regular Antonio Banderas -- hyped this as something new and thrilling when it was pretty much your standard 007 flick via John Woo and a fistful of Mexican cliches.

Well, after "From Dusk Till Dawn," two "Spy Kids" films, and -- urgh -- "3-D," no one's making any claims for Rodriguez films as being anything other than bottom-of-the-food-chain Hollywood schlock. And his latest, "Once Upon A Time In Mexico," a sort-of sequel to "Desperado," sure won't change many opinions.