El Mariachi

*Originally written in 2003


The Nineties gave us a surge of impressive, stylish, innovative young film-makers from all around the globe, with Robert Rodriguez leading the way in his ability to make a low-budget film look like a Blockbuster. El Mariachi was filmed in a short time with a minuscule budget, but put him on the map. A solid story, good acting, great music and cinematography, confident and effective editing, and explosive action that many directors fail to achieve with a much larger budget – El Mariachi delivers thrills, laughs, good dialogue, and one of the coolest characters of the decade.

Carlos Gallardo stars as El Mariachi, a travelling musician who simply wants to carry on his family tradition. The next town he wanders into is run by crime-lord Moco. One of Moco’s former employees Azul has become a hit-man and is wiping out Moco’s men as Moco had turned against him. His trademark is his guitar case filled with weapons. When El Mariachi wanders into the town he is mistaken by Moco’s men and he finds himself in constant danger. He tries to find a way to prove his innocence, but when local woman Domino becomes involved the stakes grow. Soon a war erupts in the town.

This is constantly impressive when considering the $7000 budget. Rodriguez ensures that every scene seems like it drips with gold and style. The action is swift and exciting, the performances (mainly by total amateurs), particularly from Gallardo, Consuelo Gomez, and Peter Marquardt are very strong with each portrayal making sure each character sticks in the head. El Mariachi is an innocent forced into a deadly game which will transform his life and haunt him forever. Domino is also drawn into the seedy world, is feisty but vulnerable. Moco is a cigar smoking, white-suited menace who oozes villainy. Truly one of the best ultra low budget films ever.

Let us know what you thought of El Mariachi and any of the sequels and how you feel the director’s career has progressed over the years!



The film in which Rodriquez really came to prominence, Desperado is a continuation from his low budget effort ‘El Mariachi’, which deservedly gained him recognition from big studios as well as indie heroes such as Tarantino. The man with the guitar case full of guns is coming to town, looking for the man who killed the woman he loved. He sends a friend ahead of himself (Buscemi in another great performance) to set the scene- to tell the tale of a deadly encounter with the man who has become a legend, to try and find out if any locals have knowledge of Bucho, the one he believes is responsible for his lover’s death. When Banderas finally comes to town several bloodbaths ensue in glorious fashion, and he takes refuge with a local woman played with strength and guts by Salma Hayak. Naturally they fall for each other as The Mariachi gets to the bottom of the mystery.

The film has good performances from all, is very stylish and funny, with excellent dialogue, and the plot admittedly takes a step back to let the action have centre stage. The bullets fly everywhere, the action is fluid and original, and the stunts are all the more impressive because of the tiny budget. The sex scene is memorable, not because it is gratuitous, but because of the lighting and cutting, like much of the film. Violent and loud mouthed, but brilliant fun, and one for aspiring directors who have small budgets, proving that it can be done.

The DVD has a few decent extras- mainly the commentary.

Feel free to comment on the review and the movie- is this the best of the trilogy? Is this still the best from Rodriguez?