Once Upon a Time in Mexico Superbit Studio: Columbia Tri-Star Year: 2003 Rated: R Film Length: 102 Minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Audio: DD and dts 5.1 Color/B&W: color Languages: English Subtitles: English, French MSRP: $26.96 Release date: October 26 The Feature (all star ratings out of five) Returning again to the subject matter that set his career in motion, director Robert Rodriguez’s third installment in the “Mariachi” series is a stylish, funny action film. Antonio Banderas reprises the role he took over for Desperado, the sequel/remake of El Mariachi, the legendary low-budget film that started it all. As in the previous films, the emphasis here is on action, excitement and style. The film adheres to the universal laws of action hero films, where the bad guys have really bad aim and the good guys can perform feats of strength, speed and marksmanship that make you wonder why they fight crime instead of training for the Olympics. Added to the cast for this installment are two high-profile actors: Johnny Depp, as a CIA agent (or is he?) who exhibits some extremely odd behaviors; and Willem Dafoe as a crime boss who’s seen Face/Off one too many times. Both are welcome additions, as Banderas is really not the sort of actor who can carry a film on his own. I won’t waste my breath describing the plot, as it is essentially irrelevant and probably nonsensical. If you’ve sorted out all the ironies, double-crosses and flashbacks, congratulate yourself. And get some sun. The general outline is similar to the previous film, in which Banderas totes around a guitar case full of munitions and blows away the immoral baddies while elderly Mexican women weave calmly in and out of the hail of bullets. It’s cathartic and empty. Not that “empty,” in this case, is a bad thing. Most of all, it’s a wonderfully shot film, filled with artistic compositions, brilliant colors and smart editing. So if its charms are just momentary, and tomorrow you’ve all but forgotten not just the film’s title, but that you saw a film at all, that’s at least partly the point. Some bemoan substance’s long-ago loss in its battle with style. But wow, what style can do. Video Shot on high quality digital high definition video, this is one of the most razor sharp transfers I have seen. Unlike early or low budget DV, the source material here has no trouble rendering deeply saturated colors, and the many facial close-ups are nothing short of stunning. I have absolutely no complaints about this transfer. That said, I recall the original release being quite pleasing as well, which often seems to be the case with Superbit titles. Audio 1/2 As usual, the dts track on this disc is superb, with a lot of great bass and an extremely enveloping sound field. The Dolby Digital track is not quite as forward, and seemed to be mixed at a slightly lower level. Switching back and forth, I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference between the two. Level-matching is such that this is a shaky proposition anyway, and any observations I make about two tracks that are so similar are probably worthless. Special Features NA Superbit titles eliminate special features in favor of allocating as much disc space as possible to picture quality. Conclusion This is a stunning presentation of a film that demands nothing less, as excellent audio and video quality are essential to the experience. It’s a solid, entertaining action film (I found myself engrossed even on second viewing). Whether it’s a big enough improvement over the original release to re-buy, I can’t say for sure. But it’s reference-quality all the way.