Carlos Gallardo stars in EL MARIACHI, directed by Robert Rodriguez for Columbia Pictures.

El Mariachi (1992, Robert Rodriguez)

I’m having a hard time reconciling the Robert Rodriguez who made El Mariachi with the Robert Rodriguez who made anything after it. Obviously, some of the filmmaking choices are due to the low budget, but the film’s frantic style–something owed far new to early Sam Raimi than John Woo–creates a hyper-reality. It, and some of the budgetary constraints, make Mariachi singular in the action genre. Until the very end, Rodriguez has got something extraordinary here.

Maybe it’s because the film isn’t an action movie. Yes, there are gunfights and chase scenes, but they’re on such a low scale (though the scene with lead Carlos Gallardo swinging in front of a bus is amazing) El Mariachi feels more like a modern, Mexican noir than an attempt at a revenge thriller. I haven’t seen the film in fifteen years or so, but I can’t imagine I was any more excited seeing it at as a teenager than I was this viewing. The film’s so exceptionally good–from the first frame–it’s just a joy.

Rodriguez’s direction–I imagine some of the off-kilter close-up framing is due to matting, but maybe not… as a director, he dropped everything good he does here in his subsequent films–constantly impresses.

He even makes the recurring dream sequences work.

The script is strong and well-acted. Gallardo is a fantastic lead. The villains–Reinol Martinez and Peter Marquardt–are both great.

El Mariachi is a simply wonderful, gut-wrenching tragedy of chance.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written, photographed, edited and directed by Robert Rodriguez; music by Eric Guthrie, Chris Knudson, Álvaro Rodríguez, Cecilio Rodríguez and Mark Trujillo; produced by Carlos Gallardo and Rodriguez; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi), Consuelo Gómez (Domino), Jaime de Hoyos (Bigotón), Peter Marquardt (Mauricio), Reinol Martinez (Azul), Ramiro Gómez (Cantinero), Jesús López (Viejo Clerk), Luis Baró (Domino’s Assistant) and Oscar Fabila (The Boy).


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