36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2004
"El Mariachi" is one incredible debut from director Robert Rodriguez. Despite it being made on such a low budget, the impression we are given is that it was shot by a pro and not by a first-time director. Rarely do we get to bare witness to such an outstanding debut from a promising director that has all the right ingredients in it.
The story centers around a simple man with a certain passion--to be a well-established "Mariachi." He dresses in black and carries a guitar case with him everywhere he goes. A very passive individual, the Mariachi wants to be at peace without having to deal with any troubles. Well, trouble comes looking for him when there's a case of mistaken identity. Another man that dresses in black and carries a guitar case is causing major problems for a well known drug-dealer. The difference with this person is that in his guitar case is not a guitar--it is filled with numerous types of weapons, from firearms to knives. Forced into an inconceivable conflict, the simple life of the Mariachi turns into one that is filled with violence and bloodshed.
This very well-constructed independent film resembles a modern day Western. The film quality may not be at its absolute best, but the feel of the film is one that gives you an impression of a very talented director. You never know what's going to happen next in this unpredictable film. The film is not in English, so you will have to deal with subtitles if you don't know Spanish. Still, do not let that scare you away. The subtitles are very easy to follow and the movie flows nicely with them. It may feel odd for the first few minutes, but in very little time you will find yourself not even noticing that you're watching subtitles. That's how involving the movie is, and that is the kind of power that it holds.
With a cast full of "unknowns," the acting is very solid and makes the story work. Carlos Gallardo is superb in his role of the "Mariachi." He looks like a very innocent person but then can transform into a vicious fighter when pushed into a tight corner. Rodriguez does a remarkable job with this movie. You can tell that he is a man who knows what he wants in a movie. He also proves to be quite the storyteller. He was able to do a lot with such a low budget. It's ironic that big budget is almost always spent on the most horrendous movies nowadays (not all, but a fair amount).
The DVD has some cool things to offer. It's been remastered in a new film transfer that was supervised by the director. The picture looks more than decent, and I am sure that it looks much better than it did when it was first released. Extras included are commentary, a "10-Minute Film School" featurette, a sneak peak of "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," and a couple of trailers. Overall, a very nice DVD package for a film made on a budget this.
Robert Rodriguez's "El Mariachi" is a stunning film that's both thrilling and dramatic. It's a great film to watch if you're tired of the usual "rubbish" out there and want something new and fresh. This film has a wonderful mix of story and action and never seems to be unbalanced at any time. Don't let the low budget fool you--a great movie is hidden within. A definite classic. -Michael Crane
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2007
This movie put director Robert Rodriguez "on the map." He followed up with two sequels: "Desperado" and "Once Upon A Time In Mexico." Not surprising, the best of the three was this low-budget opening film. As Rodriquez had more and more money to spend on the sequels, the stories got more and more carried away with too many explosions and special-effects, losing the charm of this first effort.
Unlike the sequels, this Mexican-made, so it is in Spanish with English subtitles. Don't let that scare you away. There isn't a great deal of dialog so keeping up with the subtitles is very easy.
The movie has very interesting camera closeups and angles as Rodriquez showed he was going to be a stylish director. The story is simple but effective, suspenseful and even with some humor. Unnlike his subsequent films in this trilogy, the action is not overdone here.
The length is also is a plus. At 80 minutes you can be thoroughly entertained in less than an hour-and-a half. The only disappointment to me was the print quality on th DVD, but I got an early edition. There might be better editions out since. It's not fuzzy but it's not sharp, either.
Anyway: highly recommend for actions/crime buffs who like style in their photography, or saw the sequels and would like to know the history of this particular "Mariachi."
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
"El Mariachi" is probably the most visual film that I've ever seen. By "visual", I mean that all of the fancy and amazing camerawork used here combines with the story to make a truly unique film.
Director Robert Rodriguez, making his first feature film here, takes action to a unique level in this straightforward and, sometimes, jaw-dropping movie, which is full of so much that moviegoers love, it's almost impossible not to like it.
Carlos Gallardo plays a young man who wants to earn a name for himself as a mariachi, a beloved, legendary kind of guitar player. He walks into a town hoping for luck. But, instead is mistaken for a brutal killer by the hired hands of a local crime lord.
At a tightly-wound 81 minutes, "Mariachi" starts up the steam and never lets up. The action scenes are loaded with energy and the story complements them with good characters and good actors that make it all work.
The sequel, "Desperado", missed the mark and is not very memorable. It missed all of the elements that made "Mariachi" so good and so much fun to watch.
Stick with this film for all it's ingenuity and brilliance, it is a film that should not be ignored.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez, 1992)
One of the most interesting things about El Mariachi (not to take away from the film itself) is that no one can seem to come to agreement on whether Rodriguez' next big-screen movie, Desperado, is a sequel or a remake to this, his first feature film. After finally getting around to seeing El Mariachi, I'll give you the definitive answer: who knows?
In many ways, if you've seen Desperado (and if you live in America and you're reading this, you're far more likely to have seen it than El Mariachi), you've seen this movie. Many of the sets are the same. (The bar Carlos Gallardo walks into when he first reaches town actually caused me a chuckle. I expected to see Cheech Marin behind the counter. And, in fact, the barman in this movie makes almost exactly the same moves Marin does in Desperado when the shooting starts.) Some things, like the kid, are treated differently in the two movies, but that's not uncommon in remakes. Certainly more common than it is in sequels. And yet there are enough differences in the plot to make you wonder.
In any case: El Mariachi, made famous three years later by Antonio Banderas, is played here by Carlos Gallardo, (co-producer and production manager on this film as well, and who has remained co-producer with Rodriguez on the other two Desperado films). He's traveling around the Mexican countryside looking for work as a mariachi. Unfortunately, just as he's getting to town, a jailbreak is occurring; Azul (Reinol Martinez) and his henchmen overpower three hired killers sent to rub him out by his old partner, Moco (Peter Marquardt), who's now living it up as a drug runner. Needless to say, Azul wants revenge, and Moco wants to stop him. Problem: Azul's trademark is that he always dresses in black and carries a guitar case... just like a mariachi.
It would probably be heretical to go so far as to compare El Mariachi (which Rodriguez made on a budget of seven thousand dollars) to Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors, but there you have it. Moco's henchmen consistently mistake the mariachi for the assassin and vice versa, and after a while, the viewer's not quite sure who's who, either. (For a kid with a guitar, the mariachi sure does handle an Uzi well.) The movie does its job well enough in mixing laughs with the action to make it watchable, despite the fact that it has, really, no plot worth talking about, very little characterization, and was more an excuse for ninety minutes of action and fancy camerawork than anything else. Since Rodriguez added all the missing elements in Desperado (and, it should be noted, every actor mentioned above-and most of the others in El Mariachi-reprise their roles in Desperado, thus adding to the remake feel of the latter film), we're willing to cut him a little slack here. After all, when you have a budget of seven grand, you probably don't have too much spare film stock to do a lot of test takes.
What really makes El Mariachi a pleasure, though, is that it contains the raw ingredients that Rodriguez would later hone into the distinctive style that he has today. He was obviously much influenced by the Three Stooges films, but he never allows the camera trickery to go overboard the way they consistently did, playing it for laughs for a few seconds at a time at most. Time speeds up and slows down during repetitive scenes to keep the audience from getting bored, characters get out of sticky situations in the silliest of ways, and everyone has a good time unless they're getting shot. (And you sometimes wonder then, too.) Ten years later, it's a bit hard to understand how El Mariachi (with the exception of the climactic scene, which probably used up ninety percent of the movie's special effects budget) could have been considered a shockingly violent film; remember, this was released the year after Terminator 2. The body count is high, to be sure, but the violence in the film definitely contains a campy/cartoon quality to it. It seems obvious in hindsight that Rodriguez wanted to play up the comedy angle here. He got his chance to do the violence angle in Desperado.
So is it a sequel? Is it a remake? I have no idea. But it's a load of fun, and that's what counts. *** 1/2
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
I first read about this movie in "Millimeter" magazine...and couldn't believe that anyone could possibly do what Robert Rodriguez did. Don't have enough money to rent a dolly camera? Borrow a wheelchair and move the camera around on that. Can't record sound properly? Edit it on a home camcorder. Can't afford editing time? Borrow time at the local cable access station. Oh, and while you're at it, make a film good enough to get you a national distribution deal and recognition as one of the hottest directors around. My hat's off to you, Robert. You made an amazing film...probably because no one told you you couldn't do it that way.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
Even though this movie was made on 7,000 it is just as entertaining as these million dollar movies out there! This movie to me was more entertaining than Titanic ever could be! And the action sequences a great! Anyway if you are looking for a good action movie this is your movie!!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This is a great flick! It is a small budget movie made by a young man with a dream. Robert Rodriguez did a spectacular job with this movie. It is such an unassuming tale but I found myself getting drawn in immediately. I like a good violent flick now and again. John Woo and Quentin Tarantino should both be proud of this effort. One gains tremendous empathy for the poor mariachi who is the victim of mistaken identity. Then he sees the woman he loves get shot down in cold blood. This low budget movie far exceeds the sequel Desperado in raw intensity and artistic purity. Gracias tanto Sr Rodriguez!
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2004
Through the heart of independent cinema comes the bold and expressive first film by Robert Rodriguez. While he would go on later to give us some modern day classics, this is the film that jump-started his career. Set in a gritty town of Mexico, a drifter arrives ready to restart a new life and concentrate on his music. He soon learns that this will be a very difficult dream since the moment he steps foot in town he is mistaken for a murderous criminal named Azul. Azul is after his money that Moco (the head boss) has failed to pay him. Moco tries to have Azul killed, but finds it difficult when he carries with him a guitar case filled with guns. After several gun battles, explosions, and a love story with a woman that gives the guitar player his first real gig, our hero finds his life in the mercy of others. It is at this time our Mariachi is reborn.
Rodriguez gives his best direction to date. Perhaps it was the lack of funds or the intensely gritty scenes, but this film helped me realize why cinema is so amazing. It is the perfect story of the small fish making his big mark on a big pond. Rodriguez takes every resource he can and rebuilds the classic concept of mistaken identity. With the fast-framed photography and interesting choice of camera angles, he takes a straightforward story and builds a legend. I enjoyed watching this film because although it was made for just a simple $7,000, the production doesn't look cheap. I have seen Hollywood blockbusters that have looked like they squandered their money more than Rodriguez did. I was just impressed with the quality of the film and the story that I suddenly felt myself totally immersed into the story.
Oddly, it is the story that never falters throughout this picture. Normally, when you have a lower cost on budget, a segment of a film will suffer. Sometimes it is the character development, other times it is the story. Nothing is forgotten about in this film. There is plenty of violence (for all you action fans out there), some powerful drama (dealing with his dreams), and some comedy that will keep you grinning from ear to ear. By having this strong balance, our hero emerges with the utmost confidence, our villain seems diabolically evil, and therefore leading into moments of sheer joy, constantly wondering what will happen next. I was rooting for everyone in this film because I felt something for each. Only through the careful eye and artistic direction of Rodriguez could such a feat be accomplished.
I have nothing negative to say about this film. From the moment the first turtle walked across the screen until the very end, I enjoyed every aspect of this picture. I suggest this movie to anyone that has ever thought about making a film, but was concerned about budget. I also suggest this film to anyone who loves a good story, amazing action, and characters that literally jump out of the screen like comic book heroes.
Grade: ***** out of *****
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2005
It is interesting to observe the difference of opinion among reviewers regarding the relative merits of "El Mariachi" and "Desperado". I agree with those who prefer the low-budget "El Mariachi". Of course it's a fictional tale, but its atmospherics and characters just seem genuinely redolent of northern Mexico; whereas "Desperado" is an entirely deracinated cartoonish Hollywood product. The fact that the language of "Desperado" is English, whereas that of "El Mariachi" is Spanish, is telling. Something bad seems to happen to Spanish-speaking actors, like Banderas and Selma Hayek, who "go Hollywood". It's hard to be a good actor in a language you speak imperfectly. Banderas and Hayek are both pretty much embarrasing in "Desperado". The no-name actors of "El Mariachi" are decidedly not.
I suspect the difference of opinion has a lot to do with whether you know anything about Mexico. "Desperado", incidentally, is not a Spanish word. The Spanish word is "desesperado", or perhaps "pistolero", which is how the title is rendered in the Spanish dubbing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
Originally shot on video tape, this movie is one of Robert Rodriguez's triumphs as a director/editor! The story begins with a simple Mariachi looking for work but quickly escalades into far more. Prisoners escaping, drug smuggling and guns firing, the young Mariachi finds himself surrounded by henchmen via mistaken identity. Wonderful editing but poor sound; it is however a must have for those who enjoyed the Desperado film.