Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Once Upon A Time in Mexico

Robert Rodriguez's debut feature, El Mariachi (1992), became the first part of the story of a Mexican legend that was soon followed by two sequels: Desperado in 1995, and Once Upon A Time in Mexico in 2003. The three independent productions maintain not only the legendary Western story of a Mexican gunman and protector known as El Mariachi, but they also share a set of violent combats melted with a background of Mexican people and culture in which somehow the hero is capable of taking the right actions against drug Cartels, only under the watch and advise of an American strategist.

In this final installment of the Mariachi trilogy, the Mexican hero, again like in the past encounters with drug Cartels, is driven into an ultraviolent gunfight looking for revenge. But unlike the previous two movies, now his desires of finally ending with the life of his wife’s murderer and the drug cartels are accompanied by stronger allies that will bring the Mariachi a deserved success: agents from the FBI and the CIA. According to these agents, especially the CIA agent (Sands), their presence in Mexico help to “restore the balance” of the country and also the United States, even if this means taking advantage of the hatred of one man to destroy a common enemy.

In the beginning, the CIA agent Sands pays for information about the Mariachi legend who is presented as “a real Mexican”, a sanguinary and skilled gunman that seems to be invincible. Though that the plot portrays comic-like confrontations with closeup scenes and limited dialogue between the characters, when El Mariachi and his supporters talk about the reasons to get involved in any kind of dispute, there is an emphasis on personal inspirations and moral values that money cannot buy. “A man that wants nothing is invincible” comments one of El Mariachi’s friends (nothing referring to monetary compensations). However, this portrayal of the "real Mexican" as someone with strong convictions and morals is part of the narrative of a legend. Thus, those pure motivations driving the characters to destroy the coalition of the most dangerous organizations in Mexico (drug cartels and illegal paramilitary associations) are not an attempt to describe the real Mexican, but they belong to this kind of Mexican superhero called El Mariachi.

In a society where being surrounded by gunmen like El Mariachi, corruption within the Mexican Federal Agency, and drug Cartels living unaccountable of crimes committed outside Mexico, nevertheless, the incentives to eliminate danger before it can cross the border to the United States become stronger and more effective when different parties join forces. As seen in other movies about U.S international war on drugs like in Sicario (2015), the CIA and the FBI have contrary opinions about the legitimacy of U.S. intervention in Mexican territory, but at the end of the day the need of protecting the U.S. from external dangers wins over diplomacy and encourages a coalition for a greater gain.

Finally, the people that are not involved in the Cartel's conflict are shown close to the end in a revolutionary upheaval to protect Mexico's liberty. Suddenly everyone from the youngest to the oldest adult joins forces to fight against the paramilitary forces with guns and strong nationalism which results in victory.

"El Mariachi" in this movie becomes part of a superhero-story, a legend, like the Mexican version of a Marvel hero. Even from its title, the phrase Once Upon a Time reminds us that this legend is not real. In reality, the victory over the war on drugs has not come yet, the Mexico-US coalition in the fight is more like a Mexico-US division, history does not tell us about a coup d´etat sabotaged by the U.S, and El Mariachi does not exist, though that is what we might wish.

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