Directed by Robert Rodriguez, starring Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Reuben Blades, Pedro Armendáriz Jr, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Salma Hayek, Enrique Iglesias and Gerardo Vigil.

Why use one bullet when 15 will do? It's the first commandment of action movies, strictly adhered to by the likes of Sam Peckinpah, John Woo, Robert Rodriguez and thousands of lesser talents. Arriving with the tiny budget, big body count 'El Mariachi', Texan-born Rodriguez stayed South of the Border for its sequel 'Desperado' and cult classic 'From Dusk 'Till Dawn' before going on to teen horror with 'The Faculty' and the 'Spy Kids' trilogy. Now he's back down Mexico way again for the follow-up to 'Desperado' and a film whose title suggests both epic closing chapter and Spaghetti Western homage.

At the end of 'Desperado', the gun-toting El Mariachi (Banderas) was seen heading off into the sunset with Carolina (Hayek) beside him. But violence continued to follow and we now find him alone again after his wife and child were murdered by Carolina's ex-lover, General Marquez (Vigil).

The chance for revenge arrives with an offer from CIA agent Sands (Depp), who wants El Mariachi to wipe out the participants in a planned coup. Marquez is now in cahoots with dope baron Barillo (Dafoe) - their plan to kill the Mexican president (Armendáriz) and turn the whole country into a drug superstore.

But Sands has got his own ideas of how things should pan out - namely with him and his DEA partner Ajedrez (Mendes) helping themselves to millions in hot loot once the coup begins. Double, triple and quadruple crosses ensue, with an ex FBI man (Blades), two other mariachis (including Iglesias) and a US con on the run (Rourke) all getting dragged in to the carnage.

With a bigger budget, '...Mexico' is smoother and less episodic than its predecessor, but for the cast assembled and expectation generated, it's a disappointment. This is a film with too many dum dums and not enough drama, where the supporting characters are way more interesting than the hero, whose tone is confused (plenty of poker faces, not enough laughs) and which needed a tighter script from Rodriguez to pull all the subplots together.

You don't learn anything about Banderas' Mariachi that you didn't know last time and with his character never properly developed, it's left to Depp to breeze in and steal the show. As the schemer with high cheekbones and low morals, he has all the best lines ("Are you a Mexican, or are you a Mexican't?"), and in the film's best running gag, gives new meaning to being heavily armed.

For the coolness of Depp alone, '…Mexico' is worth the trip and as the death toll spirals at the close, it's his character's fate you care far more about than what's going happening to Banderas'. There are plenty of lessons Rodriguez should learn from this picture, but the biggest one is that if he ever thinks about another sequel/prequel, there's only one man for the job.

Harry Guerin