Although not truly a hitman movie, El Mariachi is the beginning of Robert Rodriguez’ Mexico trilogy, and its brief 81 minute running time still qualifies as the longest back-story for any cinematic hit man to date. A tale of luck, music, and gunplay, El Mariachi tells the story of a nightmare-ridden traveling mariachi trying to make his way in the world. Although our hero regularly claims to be out of luck, the film shows that he has enough to spare: both good and bad.
In the course of a few short days, El Mariachi is mistaken for a killer who carries an arsenal in his guitar case, dodges dozens of bullets (literally), finds work, falls in love, loses his job, loses the love of his life, seeks revenge, and gains a motorcycle, a dog, and a briefcase full of guns. All he ever wanted be was a mariachi, like his father, grandfathre and great grandfather, but now he is destined to be so much more.
The hype around El Mariachi is that it was made on a mere $7,000 budget. However, reader’s of Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel without a Crew learn that the film we see today is not a result of such a low-budget. Rodriguez’ film was shot on 16mm without sound. The sound was all recorded and added in after shooting. Additionally, since Rodriguez knew that he would be editing the film he essentially edited in camera while filming. He also didn’t pay any of his actors, many of whom (including star Carlos Gallardo) also worked as crew members on the film. All of this information, plus lighting tips, advice for saving on props, and more is included in the short film “10 Minute Film School” which is also included on the El Mariachi DVD. What Rodriguez doesn’t mention there is that instead of having prints made, he transferred the film straight to video in order to use it as a resume of sorts, rather than try and distribute it himself.
Still, El Mariachi is an enjoyable film. I can’t stand subtitles, but the dialogue is light and it’s not too difficult to keep up with even if you miss a line here or there. The action scenes aren’t particularly action-packed, and theescapes aren’t exactly believable, but there’s an earnestness about the film that cannot be denied and it is regularly infused with comedic situations. Although the second film in the trilogy, Desperado (which I’ll be reviewing next week) retells much of the story found here, it’s always nice to see the original for yourself.
The great thing about the El Mariachi trailer is that not only does it not give anything away, but it completely misleads you as to the storyline of the film, all while making you anticipate seeing it and without feeling ripped off after the fact-
Best Line: “If his name’s Azul, why doesn’t he wear blue?”
More Mariachi stuff-
The Complete Hollywood Hit Men Project Series-