El Mariachi Review

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A new guitar player (Gallardo) comes to town to play his music but is somehow mistaken for a hitman, another recent arrival. The mariachi then stumbles across the local bar and in turn the beautiful bar-owner, who takes him in, unaware the gangsters are after the wrong man.


A then twenty-four-year-old Robert Rodriguez's (Sin City, From Dusk Til Dawn) amazingly assured feature debut cost a mind-blowingly minuscule $7,000 to make but is more than just an example of brilliance over no budget. Using the well-worn theme of mistaken identity, writer-director-producer-editor-cameraman Rodriguez has here crafted an action flick infinitely more exciting than many a film costing ten thousand times as much, transcending its budgetary limitations with wonderful ingenuity, invention and sassy wit.

A lone, black-clad guitar player — the eponymous mariachi — arrives at a Mexican border town looking for employment and is mistaken for a similarly attired hitman whose own identical guitar case contains a semi-automatic arsenal. There, the mariachi falls for a beautiful bar owner who takes him in, unaware of the inevitably tragic and explosive consequences of her actions.

Shamelessly derivative — Mad Max, The Terminator, the Coen Brothers, you name it — this, much like Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, has an exhilarating rawness that works for, rather than against it, its kinetic pacing, visceral editing and bravura camerawork reveal­ing the presence of a director with unbridled visual panache. A minor masterpiece.

With Rodriguez at the helm, being shot on a tiny budget was never going to stop El Mariachi setting the screen alight. At the beginning of his trilogy, Rodriguez was at his peak, with guns a blazing, paving the way for the more mainstream Desperado and unsatisfying Once Upon A Time In Mexico.