The Good, The Bad and El Mariachi

Bless me, Father, for I have just killed quite a few men - El Mariachi

Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi in Desperado

Having seen the love of his life murdered in front of his own eyes, El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) travels from town to town in search of the men responsible for his loss. With the aid of his hapless friend Buscemi (Steve Buscemi) they target the local bars, where Buscemi tells all that will listen a tale of a huge Mexican who will stop at nothing until he finds the man who destroyed his life, a man name Bucho. Having regaled this tale to the latest in a long line of bars, Buscemi is beginning to tire of their mission as El Mariachi has turned from being a highly talented guitar player in to a killing machine.

After causing a blood bath in the latest of these bars, the injured El Mariachi stumbles upon the ample lap of local book shop owner and town beauty, Carolina (Salma Hayek), who tends to his wounds. But when Bucho discovers that not only is his life in danger from the vengeful Mexican, but also that Carolina has fallen for him, he sends his henchman to burn down the book shop and kill them both in the act. But having narrowly escaped with their lives from the burning building, El Mariachi is more hell bent on getting his man.

Salma Hayek as Carolina in Desperado

"Desperado" is the 1995, bigger budget follow up to Robert Rodriguez's earlier movie "El Mariachi". I say bigger budget, as with just $7,000,000 dollars in the coffers it was significantly more than the shoe string budget Rodriguez had for the original, but no where near as much as many of the Hollywood blockbusters from that time. For what "Desperado" lacks due to a limited budget, it makes up for in bucket loads of sheer entertainment. In some ways it is like a good old spaghetti western, with a man with no name rolling in to town to put right the wrongs which have befallen him, but then it is given a modern slant with plenty of action, subtle humour and a reasonable twist towards the end.

The story itself is definitely not overly complicated and could have easily been lifted from any old Clint Eastward spaghetti western, with a man with no name rolling into a small town run by a bandit, to right the previous wrongs. In the case of "Desperado" the man with no name is El Mariachi, loosely translated to mean musician, and the bandit has transformed into a suit wearing drugs lord, who controls the town with the aid of his machine gun wielding henchmen. To be honest the storyline pales into insignificance as the majority of "Desperado" is about the breath taking action, which is best described as a mixture of Quentin Tarantino meets John Woo.

Where the storyline is important is in the opening scenes where it does a very good job of setting up the movie. The opening scene features the character of Buscemi walking into the latest bar and capturing everyone's attention with the tale of the vengeful Mexican, is really magnificent as it not only gives us the history to the main characters but it also sets the tempo for the ensuing action. Although this is in fact a follow on from the original movie "El Mariachi", this opening scene does give you enough background so that you can watch "Desperado" with out any prior knowledge of the story.

The next important scene comes about halfway through the movie where the relationship between El Mariachi and Carolina begins and causes the character of Bucho to vent his anger on them both. In some ways this is not really a pivotal part of the storyline but allows for the obligatory love story and of course the dimly lit scene of steamy passion between the leads. The only other important scene deals with the unexpected twist and to be honest it was totally unexpected but sadly never really used to its full advantage.

In the lead role of El Mariachi is Antonio Banderas (The Mask of Zorro), who back in 1995 was only just making a name for himself in Hollywood and his rawness definitely shows. His performance is good but it is not great, but that is actually part of the charm of it as his raw ability to be cheeky as well as serious endears you to his character. Opposite him is the stunning Salma Hayek (Fools Rush In) as the beautiful book shop owner Carolina, who like Banderas puts in a performance which is very raw but still very endearing, and not just because she is stunning looking. What is surprising is that I was expecting the character of Carolina to be purely there as eye candy, but in reality it is important to keeping the storyline going. Also making reasonable performances are Steve Buscemi as Buscemi, Joaquim de Almeida as Bucho and Cheech Marin as a bar tender, plus Quentin Tarantino makes a cameo appearance as a pick up guy for Bucho.

Although "Desperado" may not be Robert Rodriguez's best directional outing, it definitely showed that he had skill as a film maker which was better shown in the following years "From Dusk Till Dawn" and also the magnificent follow up to this film "Once Upon a Time in Mexico". Part of the trouble with the direction in "Desperado" is that at times it seems that Rodriguez is trying far too hard to impress rather than just letting the film naturally entertain us. Although the action sequences are brilliant for the budget limitations, they do on occasion feel so contrived that they detract from the overall enjoyment of the film. The same can be said for some of the other scenes, most notably the steamy sex scene which although enjoyable is again very contrived and lacks any originality.

What this all boils down to is that even though "Desperado" has a very weak, predictable plot and has more than its fair share of flaws, it is a remarkably enjoyable movie, especially for anyone who really enjoys the action genre. Personally I found a lot of enjoyment from watching a film which at times felt quite raw and although cliché ridden, kept you enthralled by purely entertaining you with decent action sequences and some very subtle humour. Definitely not a film for anyone who does not like action movies but for fans of films such as "Reservoir Dogs" and "From Dusk Till Dawn" will definitely find some enjoyment in watching this.

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