Tuesday, August 28, 2012
El Mariachi looks like a movie shot for very little money. At times, it looks like a home movie (disclosure: I watched it on a high-definition TV, so I'm not sure if that had any effect on the picture quality), the editing is a bit choppy, the performances are clearly by non-professional actors, and the story itself is rather slight, and yet despite its roughness, El Mariachi proves a thoroughly entertaining and exciting motion picture that demonstrates Rodriguez's talent.
A traveling guitar player, or mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) arrives in a small Mexican town about the same time an escaped criminal known as Azul (Reinol Martinez) shows up to take on the local drug lord who betrayed him, Moco (Peter Marquardt). Moco sends his gang to kill Azul, but they only know he wears black and carries a guitar case filled with guns. The gang comes across the mariachi who also wears black and carries a guitar case, and in a case of mistaken identity, the mariachi finds himself on the run, eventually getting help from bartender Domino (Consuelo Gomez), who has a connection to Moco.
The film also has an underplayed sense of humor. I got a chuckle every time the film cut away to Domino's dog, which despite warnings of its viciousness, is always lying on the floor asleep or standing over the mariachi when he wakes up. There's also a running gag involving Moco and one of his lieutenants whose face Moco uses to strike a match that has a satisfying payoff at the end. In his later pictures, particularly the likes of Grindhouse and Machete, Rodriguez displays a tendency to play up the camp elements and gross-out gags, but here, he's more restrained and less obvious. His story is limited but effective, and he sees it through.
Today, with so many action movies built on mega-sized budgets and special effects, some good and some bad, El Mariachi is refreshing in its more straightforward manner. It's simply exciting and stylish.