Friday, October 2, 2009


Original Title: El Mariachi
Year: 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Genre: Action

imdb synopsis:
A traveling mariachi is mistaken for a murderous criminal and must hide from a gang bent on killing him.

I'm going to go ahead and get this out of the way now since 563,000 other reviews have surely pointed it out as well. Robert Rodriguez filmed this fucking El Mariachi on a budget of about $7,000.

And most of that money was buying film.

If that shit doesn't either
A) make you want to create your own film

or B) discourage the hell out of you because you know you probably couldn't do this shit on 20 times that budget

(I probably fall more toward B)

then maybe genre filmmaking and filmmakers just aren't your thing.

Listen, the budget shows. These are not well trained actors, if they are actors at all. I know that some were local newscasters that just wanted to be in the film. The set is just a couple blocks of a seemingly small Mexican town. The special effects are limited to some squibs, spray painted guns, and torn t-shirts. But what Rodriguez does well is direct the film very well to cover up flaws and write a really entertaining story.

This film is not supposed to be taken seriously... at least I don't think so. It's supposed to be entertaining. I can't recall the last time I watched a film with this low of a budget and not really think about it all that much. It's just fun, but well done fun, and it's funny.

The film stars Carlos Gallardo as El Mariachi, a wandering guitarist looking for work wherever he can find it.He compares his journey to that of a tortoise; both of them taking their time to get where they were going. He has a naive and innocent look about him which fits the character well as he stumbles unknowingly into loads of trouble in the small dusty town. He is quite believable in this role, and damn good and jumping around cars and trucks! (At least I think that was him.) He can sing and looks like play the guitar rather well. Again, if it is not him performing some part of the music, the Rodriguez covered it up pretty well.

He is the center of the film essentially, and the other actors range from obviously not actors to totally passable. Maybe it is something in the language barrier, but no one really stuck out all that much as being unable on some level.

There is a great scene - well acted and directed - between El Mariachi and Domino (Consuelo Gómez) as she is trying to determine his real intentions, holding what he thinks is a knife to his throat, opening the case with her toes (awesome), and forcing him to sing. It made me smile and really set a nice mood and tension between the two characters.

The real highlight of the film though is the filming, editing, writing... all done by Rodriguez. There are loads of high/low angles that stay interesting. He does some cool experimenting with speeding up and slowing down the film for a humorous effect, like an innkeeper dialing a number to rat out El Mariachi in super high speed. My favorite thing(s) about the film was all the quirky characters and how they were presented.

The villains are pretty ridiculous. One is a gangster, Mauricio (Peter Marquardt), who would just be some lame 80s white guy in any other flick. He slicks his hair back, and according to IMDB, could not even speak Spanish and would wear dark sunglasses as to not let on he was reading cue cards. The other is the chubby Azul, Reinol Martinez with only 2 acting roles to his credit, who carries weapons around in a beat up guitar case, prefers his beer in a bottle (this leads to a cool running gag of bartenders drinking the beer themselves that they have accidentally started to pour), and always wears black instead of blue as his name would imply. He is entertaining in the role and really looks like just some average guy... not the scarred up, bald, or overly pretty bad guys we are used to seeing in action movies.

The quirky supporting cast are always good for a smile. Admittedly I am coming from a nearly completely ignorant point of view, but the surroundings and a lot of that quirkiness seemed genuinely Mexican, but in a slightly exaggerated, slightly tongue-in-cheek, slightly exploitative way. And I don't mean that negatively at all.

So much of these things brought a smile to my face. I could really see the crazy one man mariachi band in a giant sombrero cracking his knuckles. I could see the gun toting trio of ladies, the little old lady prison guard with her mesh backed hat, and the dog wearing sunglasses.

There are the "extras" in the town who are evidently oblivious to the fact that a movie is being made right under their noses... I think a crowd would react at least a little to men jumping in trucks and shooting at one another with small automatic weapons.

What Rodriguez does in El Mariachi, he does well. He skillfully and lightheartedly presents a simple yet interesting story, and he does it with style.

I was under the assumption that I had seen El Mariachi before. I remembered not really liking it all that much and had avoided seeing it again for years because of that. But when I was researching for my theme month, I saw that Antonio Banderas was not in the film... I was confusing Desperado with this all along!

It may be a cop out to start with a "Mexploitation" film by a director who has since given us Spy Kids and Sin City, but I thought I'd start out light before we get to the real dirt!

Seek this one out. It is fun and well worth your time.
And read some of the facts about the film while you're at it.

It's not the prettiest film. It's not the best acted film. But it's a damn good film.

Score: 7.5 / 10

No comments: