El Mariachi –Film Review
On paper, Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi (1993) seems ludicrous. A transient mariachi comes to the city of Acuña, Mexico, where an enormous hit squad confuses him for their mark –an assassin whom the local drug lord has put a hit on –because, like the mariachi, this assassin wears all black and carries a guitar case, though his holds only weapons. Armed with a guitar and whatever weapons he can recover from the gangsters he kills, the mariachi spends the film successfully fighting off his attackers while trying to figure out just why everyone wants him dead. (I know what you’re thinking; No, his music was excellent, so it couldn’t have been that he was just annoying.) Additionally, El Mariachi had a production budget of only $7,000. Thankfully, Rodriguez’s fast paced, grab-and-dash editing makes the film hugely exciting and forces viewers to suspend all disbelief.
El Mariachi beautifully portrays its Northern Mexican setting, with frequent darting cuts similar to the way one might scan a new environment. Unusual camera angles abound, adding to the film’s sense of adventure.
The sound is dubbed onto the film rather poorly, but it is not bothersome. Amazon streams El Mariachi in English, but you can also find it in Spanish if that’s your bag.
Someone smarter than I has pointed out that the cast of El Mariachi lacks experience, but I see no evidence of that hurting the film. The Mariachi player (Carlos Gallardo) and his love interest, a bar owner named Domino (Consuelo Gomez) have fantastic chemistry and effortlessly fulfill their roles. Peter Marquardt gives a slick but savory performance as Moco, the local drug lord, as well.
Overall, El Mariachi is an engaging story of grit and guts, not only on screen, but also in its creation. Making a movie like this on such a thin budget required the kind of chutzpah its hero shows.
If you enjoy Rodriguez’s more recent work, particularly Planet Terror and Machete, check out El Mariachi.