Money doesn’t matter, just be weird. When you do that, you’ll always be a winner, as well as crazy Quentin’s bestie.
A wandering mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) walks into a small Mexican town searching for any piece of work he can find. He walks around from drink-hole to drink-hole, and finds himself getting denied, time and time again. However, he also finds himself on-the-run when a bunch of gangsters mistaken him for another man, dressed in all black, walking around with a guitar case; except that dude’s guitar case is filled with all sorts of nifty little toys like guns, knives, and explosives. The poor mariachi just has his guitar in his case, the way it should be. So, for the next 90 minutes, the mariachi runs all over town trying to hide away from these gangsters hoping to make it out alive, and most of all, hoping to end up with the girl (Consuelo Gomez) he falls head-over-heels for completely out of nowhere. But when you throw love around in the midst of violence, the results don’t always come out so pretty.
The countless stories and legends behind the creation of El Mariachi is what makes it so damn unique in the first place. To think that a movie, let alone an action-thriller, could be made for $7,000 is ridiculous, but somehow, Robert Rodriguez made it happen. However, it wasn’t the average, conventional way of saving up money by finding investors, “borrowing” money from mommy and daddy, or going around from festival-to-festival in hopes of finding people that will find your product so worth their while, that they just have to put their money into it. Nope, instead, with Robert Rodriguez being Robert Rodriguez, saved up all of his money by being a human lab-rat for all sorts of medical tests and experiments that he found in the Classified Ads page in his local newspapers. Crazy, I know, but hey, at least it allowed him to save up just enough money to make his own movie. If that isn’t thinking outside the box, then I surely don’t know what the hell is!
“Block out at least one letter of a major corporation to avoid copyright lawsuits.” – Rule #204 to making a low-budget movie.
Now, whether or not you knew about all of that beforehand, it doesn’t matter. Because, what does matter, is that the film got made, found an audience, and was bought for over $1 million dollars, making Rodriguez a household name, and also hero to all of us aspiring filmmakers out there. Even for a guy like me who promises himself day in and day out, that he’ll one day make a film before he turns 30, and most likely for anybody else out there who shares the same hopes and dreams as well.
And with that idea in your mind, the movie works on a whole different level. Whenever you’re watching a single frame in this flick, you’re just automatically thinking about, “How the hell did he do with that with such a small-budget?”, or even like, “I know how he did that. Gosh, it’s gotta be so easy to make a movie!!”. The whole movie plays out like this because you can tell that Rodriguez really put his heart, mind, body, and soul (literally) into this movie. He wanted to make the movie, he wanted to show the world what he could offer, and he did it all with what little resources he had, or in some cases, didn’t have. With that idea in your mind, the movie works as a piece of inspiration to all film makers and shows you that yes, even you, the poor film graduate who owes more than $15,000 to anybody you’ve ever shook hands with over the years, can make a movie with whatever you have in your pockets.
But inspiration can only go so far, and you have to look at the movie the way it is now, in the year 2013, and I have to say: It doesn’t hold-up quite as well.
“Better be the Fender Stratocaster I ordered.”
I get it though, Rodriguez obviously didn’t have a lot of money to work with here so he did whatever he could, however he could, with whatever he could, but a cheap movie can only entertain somebody for so long, that is until they start to see the cracks and strings show. What I mean by that is that the movie definitely has this over-the-top, over-zealous feel to it. It definitely doesn’t take itself too seriously, has a bit of a fun, and doesn’t let you forget that you’re watching the work of somebody who made something with such little resources. I was fine with that because it made me feel like, hell, I could have even made the movie had I lived in Mexico and been able to stand all of that heat and sweat. But, once the movie starts to get serious and pay more attention to its plot, then it sort of gets tone-deaf, as if Rodriguez paid a little bit too much attention to what he was TRYING to do, and didn’t realize what he COULD do, if that makes any sense.
By the end of the movie, this is fairly evident. Once you start to see that the plot’s tension has picked-up and the emotions are supposed to be running wild, you realize that Rodriguez loses a bit of his funny, wacky edge that he worked so well with in the first hour or so. That’s what the kept the movie alive because it was knowing, while also inventive in its own weird way. That’s why when it gets serious, the energy and creativity the movie kept on continuing to show us and have us feel, gets sucked-out dry and leaves us cold. Obviously we all knew that Rodriguez would make a revamped, bigger-budget version of this story no less than 3 years later, but back then in ’92, I bet if you didn’t know that valuable piece of information, the movie probably would have been just a worth while attempt at a movie that tried to defy all the odds, but instead, ended up becoming its own worst enemy. Can’t say I hated the movie for that, but it definitely left me with a sour taste in my mouth, although I definitely still had that urge to want to make my own movies. That’s why the movie worked the most, if for nothing else.
Consensus: The legend behind the making of El Mariachi is probably what makes it so interesting and inspiring to most people out there, especially the aspiring film makers who are looking for that big-break quite like Robert Rodriguez was at the time. But however, the legacy it holds behind, doesn’t quite do the movie itself enough justice to really make you want to watch it again, and again, and again.
7 / 10 = Rental!!
A mariachi and his guitar. Aka, DWEEB.
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Collider