Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 22 – “Born to Run” – The Danger of Cliffhangers

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     There are a lot of good ideas in the Finale, but this is a show that could have still left things open and ended as a complete story…instead they took the full cliffhanger route, which leads me to believe they must have thought they wouldn’t be cancelled or they were really irresponsible with their story.

       “Born to Run” does accomplish a lot and we see how the events of the season have changed and shaped characters, but the plot holes and mysteries still bring it down, which I’ll get into more detail in the assessment.

     The episode was directed by Jeffrey Hunt and written by Josh Friedman.

    The story involves Catherine Weaver asking John and Cameron to join her while they plot to destroy John Henry and rescue Sarah Connor. Nothing is as it appears to be when Skynet attacks though and John Connor and Catherine Weaver take the Time Machine to the future to find John Henry.

The Pros: Catherine Weaver – Catherine Weaver knows Skynet is the enemy and now that the ball is in her court she does all she can to bring the Connors over to her side. We see her use her liquid skin too to stop a Skynet drone and later travel with John Connor into the future. I got to say I would have loved to watch that team up. She is a great character.

John Henry – John Henry convinces Cameron to help him as she gives him her chip so he can turn on the Time Machine to go to the future. I wish we could have got more, but I really like this character and the little time he is in the episode is enjoyable.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is able to stare down Cameron and deliver Weaver’s message on joining them and after the Weaver reveal he doesn’t go into the future, he stays with Sarah Connor on the other side to try and stop Skynet in the present.

Cameron – Cameron gives up her chip in order to save the future and it is the loss of her that motivates John to go with Catherine in the Time Machine. She is also hostile to Catherine’s offer, showing she remembers what Jesse told her about the T-1001 destroying the human crew.

Okay: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is dealing with her mortality and at this point is afraid of losing what solid ground she has left. This leads her to staying behind with Ellison to fight Skynet in the present.

John Connor – John is motivated to go into the future to find Cameron, instead he finds the resistance member Allison and his father Kyle Reese. What this all means besides his joy remains to be seen…and we’ll never know.

The Future – Going to the future, one of the future is an interesting idea so I won’t put it as a con. Sadly it doesn’t work because of the Cliffhanger.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger – John meets his Father Kyle Reese in the future and no one knows who he is. All I had were questions, that isn’t how you end a season.

   This episode could have ended with the alliance between the 3rd Faction of Machines and the Connors and with them ready to fight Skynet and able to win as we have learned from this series, that is what was missing before…or the alliance could fall apart and the bombs fall showing the future can’t be changed…either would be better than the cliffhanger we received. They really should have done more myth building in the 22 episodes they received in their 2nd Season.

Final Score: 7 / 10

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 21 – “Adam Raised a Cain” – Factions in Play

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     A character who I hated and still dislike died this episode. We also see Skynet acting like a threat and things coming to a head with Weaver’s faction about to meet the Connor’s faction. It is a good but not great episode as the loss in this wasn’t that strong of loss. There are some great character moments though.

     The episode was directed by Charles Beeson and written by Toni Graphia.

     The story involves Skynet’s attempt to kill Savannah, but she is rescued by John Connor and his faction leading to the death of Derek Reese by the T-888 Skynet sent. From here they must find out why she’s being hunted as Weaver and Ellison seek to get her back and protect John Henry.

The Pros: John Henry – John does all he can to protect Savannah in this, as to him they are friends. He also is put in a difficult situation when both Weaver and Ellison are having him hold secrets for them against one another. It’s sad as he is innocent and with the lies we see where possible corruption could sneak in.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is adiment about being the only one who can protect Savannah, though Ellison finally convinces her by reminding her that it is Catherine’s choice as a mother too, though it is for not as Weaver or the FBI created a trap and Sarah ends up in police custody once again.

John Connor – We see John powerless in this, but also figuring things out as they learn about the existence of John Henry and fear the rise of Skynet from him. He doesn’t really feel Derek’s loss since he has already had so many die for him anyway and in this he realizes more how his mother is trying to protect him.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is shown to be a good guy as he believes Sarah and John but still has to get Savannah back to Weaver. To this end we see him meet them on multiple occasions and seek compromise each time. The betrayal of Sarah hits him hard as he wanted her protection.

Catherine Weaver – Weaver is shown to be conniving but with a big picture in mind as she believes John Henry and Savannah are connected to saving the future. She isn’t wrong as their relationship is making John Henry good rather than bad as he has friends and has learned to care about people through her, but she also always expects to get her way and the betrayal of Ellison’s plan shows she can’t be trusted.

Okay: Cameron – She is mostly just there threatening Ellison. We don’t gain anything new about her character or motivations, just that she thinks that Sarah most likely has cancer.

  This episode was good, but still feels like more time could have been needed to explore things. We don’t know anything about John Henry’s brother and the Skynet faction is only seen through the face of one T-888. That isn’t enough to really draw us in or see them as a threat, even with their killing Charley and Derek.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 17 – “Ourselves Alone” – Jesse’s Plan

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    “Ourselves Alone” finally reveals Jesse’s endgame and shows the promise in John Connor in regards to the future, as well as how different people view him and just how isolated Riley is becoming and the price of all the lies and half lives.

    The episode was directed by Jeff Woolnough and written by Toni Graphia and Daniel T. Thomsen.

      The story involves Riley fearing Cameron has discovered her secret as Cameron’s glitch has returned and Sarah Connor begins to fear that they have stayed in one place for too long of time and just how out of the loop she is in her son’s life.

The Pros: Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is trying to return to stability again in this and we see just how out of the loop she is. In some ways she pushes herself further away from John but we also see how much she truly cares about Riley. There are some good character moments of her just trying to be a mom.

Cameron – Cameron is shown to have a human side in this as we see her let John fix her glitch and that she does have feelings for him. It’s a powerful moment and we see she is at the point where she respects John’s feelings for Riley and won’t interfere. This is huge and plays a part in the next episode.

Riley – Riley’s life is being manipulated by Jesse so that Cameron will kill her and turn John against the Machines. It’s tragic and when she finds out she fights Jesse for ruining her life. This ends in her death. I actually felt it too as she was finally developed enough as a character in the last few episodes.

Jesse – Jesse’s plan is revealed in this though we don’t know her motivation for turning John against Cameron. We see how devoted and like a Terminator she has become in the process though she isn’t heartless as she never meant to kill Riley and only does so accidentally in self defense and we see how much that breaks her.

John Connor – John Connor is shown to becoming John of the future as he is distant from Riley and lets people make their own choices, even if it ends in their own destruction. In this he is so distant when he could speak up and be honest, but he never does. He’s afraid of getting hurt and becoming the man alone with Cameron as his only confidant.

The Cons: Derek Reese – He is just kind of there. He only exists so Jesse cannot tell him the truth of who she is and what she knows. Sadly this doesn’t go anywhere at all. Wasted character.

   This was a good episode but not a favorite. There was more that could have been done with Derek and even with Sarah Connor too as they are doing side quests while the main story revolves around the Jesse and Riley and Riley and John drama. The ending is good though and is sadly the only way it could have gone. Things are coming to a head and the story needs to refocus on the threat of Catherine Weaver and Skynet.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Kingdom of Heaven (2005): Redemption and a Secular Society as the Road to Peace

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        “Kingdom of Heaven” is a great film! I’m at the point now where with historical films…I know there won’t be a truly historically accurate films, but how goes the story and how well is it capturing the world of our characters? I’d say on these counts “Kingdom of Heaven” captures this wonderfully. This film is also a good “Spot that ‘Game of Thrones'” character. I must say Ridley Scott does know how to do Epic as well as personal and this film manages to do both really well.

     The film was written and directed by Ridley Scott and produced by William Monahan.

      The story involves Balian (Orlando Bloom) seeking redemption in Jerusalem and the Crusade after the suicide of his wife and his learning from Baron Godfrey (Liam Neeson) that he is his bastard and heir and must go to serve the King of Jerusalem. Once he arrives he finds himself pulled into the politics as the Templars seek to break the peace with Saladin (Ghassan Massoud) while Balian seeks some sort of peace after he spares the life of Saladin’s second-in-command Nasir (Alexander Siddig) and to protect the Queen Sibylla (Eva Green) who is the woman he loves.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is stunning and Ridley Scott knows how to cast memorable scenes. From Balian being lost in the desert or the darkness of Jerusalem during the siege or time of trial. John Mathieson did a wonderful job on this and created stunning visuals.

The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is truly epic! It is good at incorporating traditional Arabic instruments and classic instruments and creating rising tension throughout the piece as well as some truly amazing fight music too. Harry Gregson-Williams was the right guy to choose for this soundtrack.

The Action – The battle scenes are amazing! The final battle of the Siege of Jerusalem is really well done as we get to see both siege weapons and a whole bunch of other styles of attack including the final attack after Saladin destroys the wall. Each of the action scenes has purpose too and it is only a few times where it feels like it drags.

The Characters – The characters are one of the strongest part of this film. I wanted to spend more time with them and not getting enough time in a 3 hour film really says a lot for how well they were written and acted. There are not many films that can make me say that, and “Kingdom of Heaven,” did.

Nasir – Alexander Siddig (Bashir of “DS9”) is wonderful as the second-in-command of Saladin and the mystic perspective in Islam as we see he cares about the Christians and sees that it is the good a person does that matters in the end. He attributes that good to God’s will but unlike one of the advisers he is always looking for another way as he has seen the humanity of the people he fights, for example Balian sparing his life and refusing to enslave him lead to him returning the favor and always acting with virtue wherever he was and whatever situation he was in. He was one of my favorite characters.

Sibylla – Eva Green brings a lot of depth to this role as we see someone torn in her role as she loves her brother the King who is a leper but also wants freedom and feels trapped in her role as she is seen as others as a political tool, except for the bastard Balian who never wanted power to begin with. Eventually she finds freedom giving up her role as Queen and becoming Balian’s wife while caring for her people who are now refugees after Saladin spares them.

Guy de Lusignan – Martin Csokas is the main villain in this as he believes God wants the destruction of the heretic and the ascension of the Templars. He is a good antagonist too and nearly succeeds in the assassination of Balian. His life is spared at the end so he still has the chance to become a good person, but given his scheming I think he’d most likely rebuild the Templars who Saladin destroyed and join with King Richard for the next Crusade.

Baron Godfrey – Liam Neeson plays Godfrey, a man who seeks redemption in his son and bastard who he eventually convinces to come to the Holy Land and who he defends against the corrupt local authority. He is injured in the process but is able to point Balian on the right path. He is the man who almost killed Saladin and is respected by all the factions in the region besides the Templars. Neeson plays the flawed wise man really well.

Balian – Orlando Bloom plays the broken noble hero really well. In this he is seeking redemption for his wife who committed suicide and in the end finds himself and realizes that a good God would not put her in Hell, especially as she is still in his heart. After the death of his father and releasing of Nasir he rules over his Baron which is a religiously plural land. This informs his perspective and why King Baldwin respects him as they work towards a peace with Saladin. It is knowing the danger that religion can bring that leads him to threaten to destroy all the holy places too so the fighting will stop…and Saladin agrees showing they both see that the places are hot-spots for instability among both their populaces. After the Siege he leaves with Eva who has become his lover and they give up their titles in order to live with peace simply and care for the refugees. It’s a cool arc and his denial of his role as Baron to King Richard shows that he has finally found peace away from the “Holy Land.”

Saladin – Saladin in the warrior king who we learn is conquering in order to appease the locals who want power and prestige (like the Templars). He is smart though and we see him try to make just decisions while dealing with his own fanatics. Eventually he does attack Jerasulem as he promised but he spares the populace after Balian negotiates terms as we see they both have a similar perspective and that there can’t be real peace if there is only death and loss.

King Baldwin – I didn’t even recognize Edward Norton in this role until I looked it up after. He is wearing a mask and does a wonderful job as the secular king ruling a religiously plural land. He is willing to to anything to keep the peace with Saladin including punishing his own religious fanatics (The Templars) and it is his example and strength that rubs off on both Saladin and Balian as he proves that you don’t need physical strength to have moral strength, and that morality doesn’t come from religion or the rules of religion.

The Importance of Secularism – Secularism is the point of this film as all the good leaders know that only in a place where Christians, Jews and Muslims can live in peace can there be peace…and this means no religion ahead of the others or passing laws against and oppressing the others. This is something the protagonists understand while the antagonists are driven by religion and the power they get from their position within the religion, be they Muslim fanatics or the Templars. Only in a society where there is room for multiple ideas and freedom to express those ideas, can there be peace.

The Danger of Religious Fanaticism – The danger of religious fanaticism is a huge theme too as it is this that leads Saladin to eventually attacking Jerusalem and it is the Templars who keep trying to start the war too as they see the Muslims as heathens and that only those who fight for God will be rewarded. Saladin and King Baldwin in the end are unable to control these factions which eventually leads to war and a breaking of the peace.

The Cons: Pacing – Sometimes it feels like it stretches for too long of time. For example when Balian first becomes Baron over his lands. These scenes stretched too long when we could have got more character moments with the Templars and the other factions in play. For example, I would have loved more time with Saladin.

  This was a powerful film with a message I fully endorse. The dangers of religious fanaticism cannot be warned against enough and this film does that while telling a powerful story and showing just how diverse this region of the world has always been religiously, politically and racially. It is also beautifully filmed, acted and written and is one of the best films to be created by Ridley Scott. If you are looking for a truly epic tale with a message that is timeless and will always ring true, you will probably like this film.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

Blood In Blood Out (1993): Bonds of Blood, the Nature of Honor and Power and Agency

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         “Blood In Blood Out” is an amazing action film! It is a film with layers to it and has some great story arcs that it takes time (over 3 hours) to explore. This is a film that gives you time to get to know the groups, the ambitions and motivations of all the players as as well as fully exploring the different turning points leading to an ending that I honestly didn’t expect, but enjoyed.

      The film was directed by Taylor Hackford, who was also one of the producers. Written by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jeremy Iacone and Floyd Mutrux based on the story by Ross Thomas and produced by Jerry Gershwin.

       The story is that of 3 brothers. Miklo who is half-white and half-Hispanic who leaves his abusive father in Las Vegas who hates him for being half-Hispanic, he meets up with his cousins Cruz who is an up and coming artist and Paco who is rising in a gang. When Miklo joins Paco in attacking a rival gang the retaliation leads to Cruz being mortally injured and Paco and Miklo getting into a car crash when running from the cops leading to Miklo going back to prison and Paco joining the marines. Years pass before they all meet up again, changed.

The Pros: The Soundtrack – The soundtrack is amazing! Bill Conti did a great job on this soundtrack! It is a mixture of 90’s action music mixed with traditional Mexican music which leads to some great thematic moments.

Paco’s Story – Paco is the tough guy of the three folks who become adopted brothers. He doesn’t connect to them but when it comes to risking it all he stays with Miklo after the crash rather than leaving him to the cops which leads to him becoming a marine to get out of going to prison and later becoming a cop. From here his relationship to Miklo and Cruz goes downhill and Miklo rises in the ranks of La Onda and Cruz becomes a heroin addict and leaves the drugs out leading to the death of Cruz’s young brother. Paco is hard until the end but focuses on the need to look after the Chicano community even though many don’t trust him for being a cop and the history of violence of white cops towards Chicanos. His arc comes full circle when he is able to forgive and be friends with Cruz again and Cruz reminds him that he and Miklo will always be brothers even if they are on opposite sides of the law. Benjamin Bratt does a fantastic job.

Miklo’s Story – Miklo’s story is the most compelling as we meet the greatest array of characters and see how selfishness and greed can lead to their never being peace or solidarity between the powerless. He is a man who never had power, abused by his father for being half-hispanic, manipulated by corrupt police and later used by Popeye and the corrupt members of La Onda too…it is only when he takes control and becomes a leader in La Onda that he finds the dignity and self respect he never had growing up. He loses family when his leg is shot off by Paco but he forgives him as in the end he does see brotherhood as more than blood even if he can’t see what the drug war is doing to his community and La Onda’s role in it. Damian Chapa is great and it is really cool that his story ends with him being the leader of La Onda after the Aryan Nation gang kills the past leader Montana and Miklo uses the time to bring solidarity to Londa and taking out the Black and White Gangs to take control of the drug trade outside of the prison.

La Onda – La Onda is fascinating as their is a council of 7 that falls apart when one of the 7 works with the Aryan Nation since he wants quick money and power and he’s addicted to what they are selling. This eventually leads to Montana seeking a peace conference with the Black Guerrilla Army (B.G.A.) but the Aryan  Vanguard uses Popeye’s actions outside of the prison to have one of the B.G.A.’s assassinate Montana. Montana’s death leads to the rise of La Onda and the death of peace as B.G.A. and A.V. getting killed off before the members of La Onda are separated which leads to them recruiting nationwide.

Montana – Montana is the calm leader and wants peace. He doesn’t see race but he sees power and how the white cops and gangs hold the most power so only those who don’t see it or don’t have power banding together can they have peace. He is also writing about the Chicano experience in the Prison Industrial Complex. He reminded me a lot Malcolm X with elements of Martin Luther King Jr. He was my favorite character in the film without a doubt. Enrique Castillo does a great job.

Cruz’s Story – Cruz’s story is finding himself and his people and growing beyond self hatred. After his brother dies from heroin he is isolated from his community until he gets clean and on the Day of the Dead makes up with his mother and father and when we see him he’s shaved his head and become a prophet figure reminding Paco of the fact that they are all family and that they are united by blood and love no matter how their paths may differ. It’s a really cool speech and it’s awesome seeing this character whole again helping his brothers strive towards healing when he was the one who was the most broken and powerless through most of the film, starting with Spider paralyzing him from the back down. Jesse Borrego had a lot of fun in the role and he is the glue between Paco and Miklo who are foils to one another in many ways as they switch roles within their community and within themselves.

Race in America – The movie is smart about race relations in the United States. This is especially shown in regards to African-Americans and Hispanics within the Prison Industrial Complex and lack of opportunities outside of the army in many cases leading to gangs as a form of agency. Best thing I can say is you should see it yourself. If you are poor you lose power and if you are power and are a people who have laws passed against you for the color of your skin it is even worse. Miklo is looked down upon for being half as well until he’s proven himself in La Onda and Paco also deals with that as being a cop in a mostly white force where the gangs are bigger in his community and Cruz is torn between that as well as it is retaliation against Paco’s gang that leads to him getting paralyzed and pulled in with drugs while he was always an outsider in the art community that mostly white because of the color of his skin. These are only some of the ways the complexity and story of race in the United States is expressed in the film.

Prison Industrial Complex – The Prison Industrial Complex is all about power and Miklo makes a good point that the State and those who work their profit from them being in the prison. Within the prison the only way to beat it is join together (what Montana was trying to do) or death of competitors (what Miklo does) in all of these the cycle of violence and status quo continues and nothing changes as those who own the prison stay on top and those who rise in the prison are still prisoners who are never given the chance to grow beyond what they were as even outside of prison people use them for being ex-cons so they can never have a real career.

Agency and Power – Agency and power are huge. Miklo’s story is fighting for his and what he sees as Chicano agency, just like Montana is trying the same thing by banding together against the Aryan Vanguard. Not many people have agency in this outside of the those who already have power (many of the white characters in the prison) and it is only by fighting back than any of the other characters get agency, including Paco who has to fight for himself to stay on the case for taking out La Onda and the drug trade. Those who were not born with power due to color of skin, circumstances or other have that much more to fight for in order to gain power due to their lack of agency. It is really well done.

Honor and Hate – There are a lot of twisted forms of honor in this as “Blood In Blood Out” is the philosophy of La Onda and it is self-destructive as their never room for healing, growth or compromise which is why when Montana as the leader tries to do something different the very philosophy of the gang is what leads to his end. Cruz is also first to get over his self hatred at being paralyzed and his time with drugs and he is able to help Paco begin healing past his regret for the car crash and his relationship and actions towards Miklo and Cruz. Hate is shown as something to grow past as it is the hate between the gangs that leads to nothing but death and the death of the relationship between Paco and Miklo.

Okay: Cinematography – It’s very 90’s where nothing is really shot in a unique way. You have close-ups and quick action shots with the only memorable cinematic scene being the killings in the prison interspersed with a Day of the Dead celebration.

   This was a powerful action film and one of the best I have watched. The only thing to keep in mind is that it is long as it establishes characters and communities and how the characters fit into those communities. The character arcs are stunning and no character is unchanged after the film. The themes of agency and power are also extremely well done and I found myself caring about all 3 of the main character and their struggles and choices they had to make as they sought healing and dignity in a world that denied them it. Suffice to say, I highly recommend it.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 15 – “Desert Cantos” – Secrets of the Dead

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     “Desert Cantos” was a powerful episode with a major “X-Files” feel that finally showed us the UFO is tied to the future thankfully and in a good way! It is a reflective  and another sign of just how good this series can be. I won’t be surprised if by the end I’m sad it got canceled.

     The episode was directed by J. Miller Tobin and written by John Wirth and Ian Goldberg.

      The story involves Sarah Connor and the Team investigating the massacre that happened at the facility Catherine Weaver took off. She hears the of the man she killed’s wife and John gets closer to the daughter of one of the men who may not be dead and is being hunted by an agent sent by Catherine Weaver.

The Pros: The Investigation – The investigation really makes the episode amazing as our team grows close to all the players. From Derek gaining the trust of the agent, to Sarah connecting with the wife and John connecting with the daughter of the man who is still alive and is an agent of Skynet we learn after.

The Funeral – Different events of the investigation unfold on different parts of the funeral and end with the wake. It is powerful and the theme of death is made more powerful as the drone we see is the prototype for the future drones that would drop Terminators and hunt humans.

Ellison – Ellison talks to Weaver about her daughter and the anniversary of the death of her husband, he is once again the human element among the machines and makes her reach out to her daughter and seek to connect. He also begins to suspect more as one of the scientists tells him how she changed dramatically after the death

Catherine Weaver – After the massacre seeing her try to connect with her adopted daughter whose mother she killed is powerful. Seeing her try to be human is good though and shows she’s never been a complete monster.

Sarah Connor – Tries to protect the wife of the man she killed by hiding the truth. She knows that the truth is too hard to know sometimes, especially when he and another man who faked his death are shown to be hitmen for ZeiraCorp showing that Skynet’s influence is already in the present and everyone is under surveillance.

   This episode had a wonderful layout and humanized a lot of minor characters as well as showing how easy it is to ignore the truth if it is uncomfortable. The illusion sadly helps people live and Sarah Connor realizes it and from it why so many see her as crazy. It’s powerful and shows that the people did nothing since the corporation provided jobs, even though so many people they knew were killed in the end and even the one they were trying to protect is being hunted. This is an episode on the folly of humanity.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003): Shooting for a Bigger Point

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     “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” would make a great min-series. As a film it doesn’t quite work as there are a ton of characters and revenge stories going on and right around the middle it gets really muddled and overindulgent but picks up a lot again at the end while finally having El Mariachi change! As the ending to the Mexico Trilogy, it wasn’t the best…that still belongs to “Desparado” but it was better than “El Mariachi” both in soundtrack and cinematography.

     The film was directed by Robert Rodriguez who also wrote, produced and composed the music for. With the other producers being Elizabeth Avellan and Carlos Gallardo.

     The story picks up where “Desparado” left off with El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) and Carolina living their life with their daughter after they defeat the corrupt General Marquez. The general survives and gets revenge on El Mariachi killing his wife and daughter leading El Mariachi to seek revenge.  Around the same time Agent Sands (Johnny Depp) commissions him to kill the Drug Lord Armando Barillo (Willem Dafoe) leading to a final face off as all the factions come together as both Barillo and Marquez want to overthrow Mexico’s President.

The Pros: The Cinematography – The cinematography is stark and like a dream sequence making the violence beautiful in how it is presented. It’s not as beautiful as “Desperado” but it still has some very beautiful scenes and color combinations.

The Soundtrack – Soundtrack is the best it has been so far and has a reflective somber tone intermixed with high action beats to reflect the scenes going on.

Armando Barillo – Dafoe does a great job as this drug lord who the CIA is trying to take down. He is emphatic at first and later we see how smart he is when he fakes his own death and even survives past Marquez. It is only a Mexican agent who kills him in revenge after Sands gives him the prompting and opportunity. The agent wasn’t memorable at all though, versus Dafoe.

Ajedrez Barillo – Eva Mendes is wonderful as the daugther of Barillo. She is the one who captures Sands and has them drill out his eyes. She’s cruel and smart and only has a moment of stupidity when she goes to check on Sands body and Sands shoots her in revenge.

Jeffrey Sands – This is one of Depp’s more memorable characters. He is a smooth operator and speaks very calm. I enjoyed his performance as he was a character who was odd and driven and all about the job. He doesn’t let losing his eyes end his mission either and we see that even with loss he can fight and joke making him one of the better action heroes out there. He’s also crazy like most of the characters in this film.

El Mariachi – El Mariachi’s arc goes from taking out small time drug lords in the prior films to taking out Generals in this one. It is here he finds purpose beyond revenge as he gives his money to the people and with his new Band where they take on a Nationalist identity of fighting for Mexico as they protect the President from Marquez and Barillo. He gets Carolina’s locket back and we see him singing for her and fighting for his country. It’s a powerful story.

The Ending – The message is that a person can make their home better. In the first 2 films El Mariachi couldn’t see beyond revenge and himself but later he is fighting for the populace and in this the populace rises up with him against the corrupt General as now El Mariachi has become a folk hero. He embraces this role and it is in that his love for his country and the people keep him going as he is no longer driven by revenge and wishing to die.

Okay/Pros: The Action – Rodriguez has always been good at action and this is film is no exception. A con could even be that it had too much action and was really excessive at times much to the detriment of the story. Specially the hospital attack I was really bored on and it wasn’t until the final confrontation during “Day of the Dead” where I was pulled back in.

The Cons: The Writing – The writing is all over the place. I didn’t care about the Mexican agent, Barillo and his daughter needed more fleshing out and El Mariachi is just kind of there, we don’t see much of his life beyond his music and revenge up until the end. There are a lot of good ideas here they just aren’t clear because of how muddled the script is.

The Use of the Fridge – El Mariachi has now lost his girlfriend, Carolina and daughter as the motivator for each film. This is a tired trope and way overdone. I wish he’d had something more and that we could have seen some of the women in his life kick ass like Carolina did in the flashbacks. The fridge is a terrible trope largely because it is overused. Rodriguez didn’t have to do anything but repeat the plot of “Desperado” for El Mariachi’s motivation and that is just sad.

     Minus the fridging of his girlfriend in the first film and Carolina and his daughter in this one, as well as the muddled script, this was a good film I’d recommend. It is more polished and interesting than “El Mariachi” which felt like a film made by a director just starting to direct but wasn’t as tight and polished as “Desperado” which never felt excessive in any major ways. This one did have a better message though as the vigilante finally looked beyond himself and to the people he should have been protecting all along. That is what made this film really good besides the very colorful characters.

Final Score: 8.2 / 10

Also, here are the reviews for “El Mariachi”: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/el-mariachi-1992-a-good-but-rocky-start-to-the-mexico-trilogy/

and “Desperado”: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/desperado/

As we complete the Mexico Trilogy.