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  Mariachi, El Guitar Man
Year: 1992
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gomez, Peter Marquardt, Jaime de Hoyos, Reinol Martinez, Jesus Lopez
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 3 votes)
Review: A mariachi - a wandering musician (Carlos Gallardo) - strolls into a Mexican town, believing today will be his lucky day. But he's wrong - not only does he fail to find a place to play, he gets mistaken for a ruthless assassin who also carries a guitar case; because no one in town knows what the assassin looks like, the mariachi is hunted down by the hitmen of the local crime boss, and when the real assassin turns up, the confusion leads to big trouble for everybody...

When El Mariachi was first picked up for distribution by Columbia, the budget was all anyone could talk about. Everyone agreed that writer/director Robert Rodriguez had worked wonders on only $7000, packing in stunts, shootouts and comedy in a film that runs less than ninety minutes, but the economical script was behind a lot of the efficiency on show, and the handheld camerawork gave the story a immediacy that a bigger budget might have diluted.

It's a tribute to Rodriguez to say that the film would have worked just as well with tons of money thrown at it (I'm not including the promotion budget, of course) as it did on the paltry sum that he actually had to use. The plot owes plenty to Spaghetti Westerns, with its mysterious stranger getting embroiled with the small town's outlaws, and is indebted to Hitchcock's mistaken identity thrillers for its "innocent forced into action" main character.

The mariachi laments the passing of traditions when he sees that the first bar he goes into has a bloke with a sombrero and an electronic keyboard supplying the music, but this theme isn't laboured. In fact there's a healthy string of jokes to offset the clich├ęs, such as the leading lady making her entrance in romantic slow motion, only to speak in slow motion, too! The action scenes are exciting, featuring an abundance of gunfire and one great stunt with a bus as our hero makes his escape.

The problem is, just as you've got used to the easygoing style, the film's tragic ending seems out of place. It lends the hero (who is a great shot considering he's only just picked up a gun recently) a mythic status that is more in keeping with the semi-sequel Desperado than the befuddled wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time protagonist we've seen so far, never mind his dreams foreboding doom. However, for his debut, Rodriguez deserved the acclaim. Music by Rodriguez and a whole bunch of other people.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Robert Rodriguez  (1968 - )

Hip, hard-working American film maker, a former cartoonist, who directs, produces, writes and edits most of his movies. El Mariachi worked wonders on a tiny budget, and since then he's made Desperado, the only good segment of Four Rooms, gangster/vampire horror From Dusk Till Dawn, teen sci-fi The Faculty, kiddie adventure quartet Spy Kids, Spy Kids 2, Spy Kids 3-D and Spy Kids 4-D, semi-sequel Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Frank Miller adaptation Sin City (which gained a sequel nine years later). He next teamed up with Quentin Tarantino for double feature Grindhouse, and although it flopped it did spur him to beef up the fake trailer Machete, featuring the Danny Trejo character from the Spy Kids movies, a sequel Machete Kills following soon after. James Cameron gave him Alita: Battle Angel to play with, but the results muffled his flair.

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