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El Mariachi
DVD disk
Oct 9, 2004 By: The Shootin Surgeon
El Mariachi order
Director:
Robert Rodriguez

Actors:
Carlos Gallardo
Reinol Martinez
Peter Marquardt

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A mariachi (Gallardo) walks into a small Mexican town in the hopes of finding employment in one of the local drinking holes. Mistaken for a gun laden guitar case-carrying gangster, he soon finds the local drug lord's men all over him and while his only wish is to play guitar, he ends up joining into 81 minutes of Spanish-speaking fun.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Much has been made about how this film was shot on a budget of only $7,000 and about the time Robert Rodriguez spent as a lab rat trying to raise that money, but these stories would never have made it to anyone's ears if all those efforts hadn't resulted in such a fun, cool film. From the get-go, EL MARIACHI distinguishes itself through a unique style reminiscent of the old Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns: close-ups of grimy, sweaty actors, a dusty setting with sunlight blazing down and a very simple plot with clean execution and a reliance on the charm of its stars and the visual flair of its director. That flair is apparent throughout and the best possible use is made of slow motion, fast motion and panning that accentuates both the dramatic and hilarious moments of the film.

Entirely filmed in Spanish, EL MARIACHI features tons of non-actors, most of whom happened to be friends and relations of the filmmakers, local townsfolk and various and sundry other characters. As the two main guitar case carriers, Carlos Gallardo (whose guitar case contains a guitar) and Reinol Martinez (whose guitar case contains an assortment of guns) couldn't have been better. Gallardo, as the sensitive Mariachi trying to figure out why he's being chased by men with guns is particularly disarming, especially in the ease with which he changes from a mild guitarist to a tough-as-nails fighter to defend himself. Martinez, as the gun-toting gangster, is also quite effective, especially when you consider that he's not even an actor, but rather a 19-year old medical student. Most of the laughs come courtesy of a plaid-shirted henchman who tries his best during the entire film to get rid of the man with the guitar case.

I recommend this film to those interested in a quick thrill that's definitely unique nowadays. Rodriguez makes the most of his limited funds and delivers an exciting film that captures the attention and doesn't let go until the end. Clocking in at under 90 minutes, it also requires a minimal investment in terms of time, especially important if you feel like watching a low-budget films can end up being a waste of your time. By now though, this one has well made its reputation and for those who've missed it...now is as good a time as any.
THE EXTRAS
The first feature found on the DVD is a full-length audio commentary with director Robert Rodriguez. Rodriguez did pretty much everything on this film but act, and as the writer, producer, cinematographer, director, etc, there's no one better placed to answer every single question you may have about the film and believe me...that's what he does. With non-stop talking, he fills the track with so much info that if you were to type it out, it might be about one hundred times thicker than the movie's script. Fortunately, he's a pretty interesting guy and it's not too long a track. Still though, as he says himself...it may take a few runs to get everything he says.

To complement that commentary, Rodriguez offers another short featurette entitled "10-Minute Film School" in which he explains his method for shooting films on no budget and shares some tips regarding time and money-saving shortcuts. Using real footage from the film, he walks you through a scene explaining how he made his money look much better than it actually was. Pretty interesting. You can see some results of his work in the next feature, a short film entitled "Bedhead" in which an a-hole brother torments his little sister and gets his ass kicked once she gains psychic powers. Pretty funny and only a few minutes long.

For all those drooling with impatience, you'll also find a 5-minute long sneak peak at the upcoming ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO with a few comments from some of the stars as well as trailers to all films of the "Mariachi Trilogy".
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
This is a fun movie to watch and it's one of those that can be watched over and over again. It's not really for everyone though, but it should, at he very least, be rented if you're not sure you want to spend the dough on a purchase (since there's not really much on the DVD that would attract someone otherwise). It's not really a "must-have", but it's definitely a "great-to-have".
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