I finally got the chance to see this, the first installment of the El Mariachi trilogy just the other day and had as much a blast watching it as I did Desperado. Of course, it didn't have anywhere near as much action, but it's essentially the same movie. After all, Desperado was a demi-remake of it, but at the same time, if this was before it, it left a few questions that made me wonder about the series as a whole. Oh well, nevermind that, it doesn't matter. If you like Robert Rodriguez's style, you'll enjoy this, plain and simple. And just for the sake of readers out there, I won't mention the budget for the movie because it's getting annoying. I've yet to read a review that didn't mention how much this was made for. A lot of reviews also fail to mention that the scenes weren't what cost so much, but a majority of the budget went to film. For the most part, you can't tell that this was a cheap movie. It looks like your basic movie that was made that year, save the grainy film quality.
We start out in a jail in Mexico where a man, Azul, is running his own business right there in the prison. The phone rings, and it's Mocco- a powerful gangster in Mexico, telling Azul that everything's going to be fine. Yeah right. Just seconds later, some of his men storm the jail and attempt to take Azul out. Nice try, they didn't stand a chance. Azul goes out to do away with Mocco so he can have some peace, with his guitar case full of weapons. And this case is pretty sweet. It has pockets and slots holding various weapons from brass knuckles, huge knives, automatic guns and more. At the same time, a mariachi, El Mariachi to be exact, enters the town looking for work. At first he thinks it's going to be a breeze since they're giving away free coconuts at the entrance, but he's completely wrong. Mocco told his men to look out for Azul, who is wearing black and carrying a guitar case...so is El Mariachi. Since his men don't know what Azul himself looks like, anyone in black with a guitar case is the target. El Mariachi doesn't have any luck finding work at first. Mariachis are all done for in this town, as shown by one bar owner's keyboard player who has every instrument right there on the keyboard. Why pay five guys when you have all of them right there in one? Right when El leaves, Azul barges in and takes out everyone in the bar after learning that Mocco owns the place. Word goes around that the man in black with the case took 'em out, so the wild search continues. El finds a love interest in Domino, a woman who runs another bar and gives him a chance. He's safe for a little bit, but things go sour and it's up to him to stop Mocco after Azul gets him in a little bit of trouble, accidentally taking the wrong guitar case. All in all, I really liked the movie. While El Mariachi will always be Antonio to me, it's good to see how the story all began. This is a very good first film from anyone, especially Robert Rodriguez who is the friggin' king of action movies.
Visually, I think you know what's going on here. It doesn't look very good. Be it from the cameras used, being filmed in the early 90's or the lack of any real remastering. We're talking taped vhs quality here. But it's still watchable. There's tons of grain in most of the scenes, but it doesn't hinder the overall presentation that much. And check out some of the lighting effects. 'hard to believe that some of them were pulled off with just two 250 watt lightbulbs placed at the right level. The audio is about the same as well. Remember that the voices were done at a different time, much like the Man With No Name trilogy. Robert did a good job matching them up for the most part. He did an even better job with the sound effects. Hearing the coconut hit the bottom of a trash can made me jump. I didn't expect it to be so loud. At least this was remastered in 5.1 Dolby. Try watching it with headphones.
The special features, while not as packed as Desperado or Once Upon A Time In Mexico, are of the same quality you'd expect from Robert Rodriguez. Up first is a commentary by him, which is always a joy. Robert never takes a breath while commentating, and gives nothing but useful information on the movie itself, and gives advice for aspiring film makers. I like a lot of the small tricks he used in order to make the movie for look good while retaining its small budget. For instance, because the movie was filmed without vocal tracks, and was later added in, if a line didn't match the lip movements, he'd cut away to a person's reaction, or zoom in on something else. Most of these cuts were done with Carlos, the actor who plays El Mariachi, because when he'd sing, it was a different person singing the words since he couldn't, and couldn't play the guitar. So any time he didn't match, Robert would cut away to Domino's reaction, or the crowd. And just like in Desperado, he used a lot of the same actors more than once for stunts and all that. It's a very interesting commentary track, and with him doing it, you never get bored. I would never have guessed that the guy playing Azul was just 19 (Robert even states "he looks like he's pushing 40!). There's also the usual 10 Minute Film School where he goes more into detail about tricks used. There's also his short film- Bed Head, which is a goofy little short. It's about a little girl who has an annoying brother that pushes her down, causing her to have psychic powers. She tries her hardest in using them to get rid of his bed hair, which is just ridiculous looking but adds to the charm. The cast is consisted of his family.
Again, if you like Desperado, by all means grab this beauty. While the characters aren't as strong, it builds the whole series. Honestly, I was expecting a pretty poorly edited movie after reading a few reviews, but it looks very professional. Blood shots are better than some I see in movies today, and of course, all the action's still there...though this is more of a drama with some comedy thrown in. Robert himself said this was supposed to be a comedy, but because it's sub-titled, people saw it as a foreign film, and took it more seriously. He says this on the Desperado commentary, and he's right.