Desperado movie review, Robert Rodriguez, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Carlos Gomez, Danny Trejo, Quentin Tarantino. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire

A scene from 'Desperado'
Buy movie posters at
Courtesy Photo
**** stars
103 minutes | Rated: R
WIDE: Friday, August 25, 1995
Written & directed by Robert Rodriguez

Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Joaquim de Almeida, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Carlos Gomez, Danny Trejo, Quentin Tarantino, Carlos Gallardo

 'Desperado'/'El Mariachi'
The Special Editions box set of these two ingeniously resourseful, incredibly entertaining, panache-packed south-of-the-border uber-shoot-'em-ups includes almost everything one could hope for from cool cult-movie DVDs.

On the handsome brand-new digital transfer from the el-cheapo "El Mariachi" negatives, Rodriguez delves into the creative penny-pinching minutea of making a $7000 action movie (financed through a month's stay as a guinea pig at a research hospital) that literally looks like a million bucks. On the commentary and in a featurette called "10-Minute Film School," he points out every corner cut (you'd never see them without him) and talks in depth about planning literally every shot and every angle to save film stock (his most expensive resource) by shooting only one take of each. Anyone who has ever been interested in low-budget filmmaking should listen to this track.

The picture itself is a wonder to behold, knowing its microscopic budget. But "El Mariachi" is a top-notch B-movie no matter what it cost. Gritty and simple but consistantly thrilling, it's the story of a peaceful, out-of-work musician, mistaken for a deadly assassin by the criminal overlord of a small town, who is eventually forced by circumstance to assume the violent role. The result is both tragedy and a whole lot of raucous gunfire, which is all the more exhilerating when you hear how Rodriguez's crafty editing made a few rounds of ammo seem like infinite, lethal machine-gun fire.

The 'El Mariachi' disc also includes a short from Rodriguez's youth called "Bedhead" that is so off-the-wall and hilarious you'll probably watch even more often than the feature.


In the commentary and bonus features for the even more brilliant and visually sumptuous "Desperado," Rodriguez continues his budget filmmaking lessons, this time explaining how he made his $7 million budget look like an expensive Hollywood action flick. The "Anatomy of a Shootout" featurette takes you every step of the way through planning one of the film's mind-blowing showdowns. But Rodriguez's voice-over track leaves a whole lot unexplained, like exactly why he replaced his lead actor in the first film with Antonio Banderas.

Not that I'm complaining. The guy's sexy, dangerous charisma is part of what makes the second film one of the best action movies of all time. But what brought about the change and what did his original star think about it? He also clearly recorded both commentaries the same day and assumes anyone listening has already listened to his track on "El Mariachi."

He does talk about casting Salma Hayek and the film's other notable stars, but he finishes up with the story of an original ending -- cut to avoid having to nitpick for censors -- that didn't fade to white just before the final shootout. But if this is such a special edition DVD, why isn't that ending one of the bonuses?

Rodriguez is so soft-spoken that you really have to crank the volume to listen to his commentary -- and apparently so did the sound engineers who recorded it, because there's white noise background interference on both tracks.

Trailer, superficial behind-the-scenes look at "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," the series third installment, video-editing trial software (unfortunately it's not Apple's FinalCut).

New digital transfers of both films are flawless, as is the remastered sound (which is 5.1 Dolby on "Desperado" and 2.1 on "El Mariachi")

RATIO: 1.85:1 (16x9 enhanced)
DUBS & SUBS: In several (but different) languages on both disks.

"El Mariachi" ****
"Desperado" ***

  ('03) "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"
  • Robert Rodriguez
  • Antonio Banderas
  • Salma Hayek
  • Cheech Marin
  • Steve Buscemi
  • Danny Trejo
  • Quentin Tarantino

  •  LINKS for this film
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Revenge on the mind of 'Mariachi' in wild, ingenious, incredibly stylish action-sequel to $7000 sleeper hit

    By Rob Blackwelder

    There's nothing like going into a movie with high expectations and coming out in awe.

    Robert Rodriguez, the 27-year-old director of the sleeper action hit "El Mariachi," had Hollywood beating down his door after his little $7,000 movie made a huge splash last year. Columbia Pictures gave him $7 million (still a tiny sum for an action movie) to produce his second film, "Desperado," which opened yesterday.

    What that kid can do with $7 million would make big-budget action directors like John McTiernan cry.

    In short, "Desperado" will knock your socks off.

    Every detail of this movie was poured over by Rodriguez. He wrote, produced, directed and edited. Although not every idea in the film is his own -- some action sequences owe a lot to Hong Kong martial arts king Jackie Chan, and Quentin Tarantino (who has a bit part in the film) clearly influenced the tight, bitingly clever dialogue -- Rodriguez has a complete grasp of what keeps an audience enraptured.

    The camera is focused on faces for much of "Desperado." Antonio Banderas, who plays the nameless mariachi seeking revenge for the death of his lover, is so submerged in the part that the audience can read in his eyes all his character's thoughts, passion and emotion.

    As his new love, the stunning Salma Hayek gracefully plays the damsel in distress, but with a firey and independent personality. The love scenes between these two are so intense you feel ashamed to be watching, like you're hiding in the room while they make love.

    That these love scenes stand out in an action movie speaks volumes for Rodriguez as a director. But "Desperado" is an action movie, and it's the action that makes this film destined for monster success.

    Every stunt, every shootout, every explosion is masterfully shot for maximum intensity and maximum ascetics. Forget "Die Hard," this is adrenaline.

    As much as I'd like to describe every detail of the story, there is one sequence demonstrative of the why "Desperado" is as brilliant as it is: Banderas is chased to the edge of a building's roof and almost falls off. As the bad guys draw their guns, he leaps backwards off the building, madly firing his two pistols as he falls. He lands on his back on the next roof, jumps right up and kisses the girl.

    Rodriguez will have a hell of a time topping this.


    or Search for

    powered by FreeFind
    SPLICEDwire home
    Online Film Critics Society
    All Rights Reserved
    Return to top
    Current Reviews
    SPLICEDwire Home