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With this sequel to his prize-winning independent previous film, "El Mariachi," director Robert Rodriquez joins the ranks of Sam Peckinpah and John Woo as a master of slick, glamorized ultra-violence. We pick up the story as a continuation of "El Mariachi," where an itinerant musician, looking for work, gets mistaken for a hitman and thereby entangled in a web of love, corruption, and death. This time, he is out to avenge the murder of his lover and the maiming of his fretting hand, which occurred at the end of the earlier movie. However, the plot is recapitulated, and again, a case of mistaken identity leads to a very high body count, involvement with a beautiful woman who works for the local drug lord, and finally, the inevitable face-to-face confrontation and bloody showdown. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
El Mariachi's best (and most violent) outing - 86%
Being a product of the video game generation, I have recently rediscovered the therapeutic qualities of slow-mo death-match on the N64's "Perfect Dark". A quick ten-minute blast with a couple of meaty pistols in each hand can easily dispel the day's stresses and strains better than a hour on a couch - trust me. Although it may upset the moral minority to admit it, being able to unleash the violent impulses that exist in us all in a safe and socially acceptable manner is hugely beneficial to one's emotional state of mind. Far better to play a video game where you are responsible for truly reprehensible criminal acts than to do it in real life, after all. And in the same way that games often depict senseless violence, the cinema has long been home to violence in one form or another - from "Tom & Jerry" to "Enter The Dragon". For me personally, "Desperado" is as close to a cinematic equivalent of a video game as we'll see - perfectly orchestrated and highly entertaining mayhem but as empty inside as one of El Mariachi's spent casings.
Director Robert Rodriguez practically remakes his low-budget debut "El Mariachi" with Antonio Banderas as the mysterious stranger who walks into town with a guitar case full of guns and a serious grudge against local crime lord Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida). You see, El Mariachi lost the love of his life and his ability to play guitar (after he's shot through the hand) at the hands of Bucho's goons and so, El has a score to settle. After announcing his arrival in town by taking out Bucho's bar, El finds himself helped by glamorous bookstore owner Carolina (Salma Hayek) in his seemingly impossible quest.
It ain't big and it ain't clever but my, "Desperado" is a whole lot of fun! Tongue firmly in cheek, the cartoony action and simple revenge story combine to create a fabulously entertaining film that still stands out as a truly unique picture. Easily better than the muddled climax to the trilogy ("Once Upon A Time In Mexico"), "Desperado" highlights the brilliant creation of the Mariachi character and Banderas is the ideal choice for the role. Seemingly indestructible in battle, El carries one fatal flaw - his heart of gold - and right until the end, you're never quite sure if he'll make it or not. Opposite him, Salma Hayek has never been (or looked) better than she was here. Simply oozing sexuality, Hayek smolders like desert sand and steals the film. And this despite humorous cameos from Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino and Cheech Marin.
"Desperado" isn't quite the masterpiece that it should be. It's about as original as a Hollywood remake and its lack of any sort of ambition doesn't limit its scope but merely means that it reaches its targets with ease. And if plausibility and complex story lines are what you're looking for then move on because this film is as simple as one of Jerry Springer's guests. To be honest, "Desperado" makes no illusion as to what its about and stakes its ambitions right from the first scene. It's arguably one of the best action films made in recent years but this type of film is all-too-common, rarely appreciated by "serious critics" and frequently dismissed as "throwaway cinema". Not so - "Desperado" is an enjoyable, amusing and explosive scorcher of a movie and is highly recommended to anyone who likes their gun-fu and OTT fight sequences. Or anyone who doesn't play "Perfect Dark"...
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