I promised Tom that I would write an article for the recent edition of Freaky Trigger on the politics of Once Upon A Time In Mexico. A quick flick to the front page will confirm that this was once again an empty promise. Partially due to laziness. But mainly due to the fact that my initial conceit really was not strong enough. Once Upon A Time In Mexico has politicians in it, political acts are done, but there is no political content beyond the tentative suggestion that politics might be important.

This last point is not completely without merit. Most Hollywood product is loathe to tell us that politics might not only be interesting but worth dying for. When we get to see Senators or souvenirs they tend to be operating on a single issue level, or as bad guys. The only surprising thing about Arnuld’s new political career is that Hollywood had never cast him in such a role before. Not unsurprising really, politicians are not heroes in Hollywood.

Robert Rodriguez is not Hollywood, though he loves it and knows how to play its game to the hilt. And the political content of Once Upon A Time In Mexico is minimal: it boils down to corruption being bad and maybe we should give a decent elected official the chance to do his work. Johnny Depp’s CIA agent exists as an agent of chaos, he has no real idea what he wants to happen in Mexico, merely that instability serves the purposes of the US (this is as sophisticated, but as correct as the politics get). El Mariachi returns, this time not fighting for his life, or his girl but for his country and – gasp – the democratic process. Since he starts the film desperate and with nothing to live for, this isn’t a bad trade up.

The cartels and the instability is what made Mexico the country that could raise a killer like El Mariachi. In classic end of the West style Banderas walks off into the sunset knowing that his time has past. We probably won’t see his brand of guitar playing murderous mayhem again, and it is probably just as well. But will we see more politics in Rodriguez?