El Mariachi

A lot of slackers submit to medical research to earn quick cash. The difference with Robert Rodriguez is that he used the money ($7,000, all told) to make a movie. Acting as his own cinematographer, editor, and special-effects artist, Rodriguez intended this unpretentious action flick to be his calling card in the Mexican video market; the movie, however, attracted the attention of Columbia, which footed the bill for post-production — so the movie we ended up seeing wasn’t strictly a $7,000 film — and gave it an art-house release. Some of the film is monotonous, but it’s so completely what it is — a shoot-’em-up done with throwaway energy — that you’d have to be fun-impaired not to enjoy it. Carlos Gallardo is El Mariachi, who’s mistaken for a murderous escaped criminal (Reinol Martinez) carrying a guitar case loaded with guns. He falls in love with beautiful bartender Consuelo Gomez and spends the movie running from ruthless mobster Peter Arquandt. Rodriguez isn’t much interested in transforming the genre, much less transcending it — he’s happy enough just working in it. Add the strangely lulling guitar ballads on the soundtrack and you have the sort of comfortable action-comedy that Hollywood, with its big stars and inflated budgets, long ago forgot how to make.

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