Once you accept the money, then it’s time to sell your soul and join the mainstream.
Taking place after the first one with a new cast but relatively same story, a gun-toting mariachi (Antonio Banderas) travels to a Mexican town in search for the man who killed his lover and shot his right-hand, the same hand he used to be able to make sweet, sweet music with. After the mariachi shakes things up in town, the local drug lord (Joaquim de Almeida) wants him dead and, if at all possible, brought to him so that he can be the one to do the righteous act of slaying. And so, the rivalry between the two heats up with the drug lord getting more and more paranoid, and our mariachi gets more and more cornered by all sorts of crooks, yet, is also able to find solace in the loving and caring arms of a gal who runs the local library (Salma Hayek). However, there’s something about this chicky that strikes the mariachi as strange. Could it be that she is in-debt to this local drug lord, or maybe, just maybe, is it that they share something a little more personal than just strictly doing business?
After he hit the big bucks and fame with his shoestring budget debut, El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez found himself prime and ready for big-budget, Hollywood filmmaking where not only would he be able to call the shots anyway he would want, but with anybody he wanted to. But as we all know, once some little nobody all of a sudden makes it big and gets his hands on whatever he wants, then things sort of go downhill from there. And to add insult to injury, we all know that simply “remaking” your first movie, with a bigger budget and cast on-display, is an even more drastic move on anybody’s part, especially Rodriguez’s.
I guess Rodriguez was just “too big” for the turtle anymore.
I guess you can’t blame Rodriguez too much for wanting to play it safe and practically do what he did no less than 3 years before, because even though his name was out there for the whole world to take notice to, the guy was still only 27 years old. And for a guy that young to be making movies this big, it has to be a pretty overwhelming feeling. I couldn’t imagine it, but who the hell am I, right? However, fear doesn’t excuse laziness, and that’s exactly the type of problem Rodriguez runs into with this movie.
It isn’t that the movie’s necessarily boring because it goes over everything that happened in El Mariachi, it’s more because Rodriguez doesn’t know how to give his story more substance in order for us to care. Instead, he just gives us piss-poor character-development that doesn’t do much for the actors in terms of what they have to work with, and also gives us too many scenes where people are doing more talking, than actual shooting, killing, or anything violent of a sort. Which is fine, as long as you can hold somebody’s interest with actual interesting, entertaining dialogue, which is not what Rodriguez gives this movie or the characters. Most of them seem to just ramble on and never go anywhere, except only to move the plot from one gun-battle sequence, to the next.
But then again, those gun-battle sequences I’m talking about, are pretty damn fun and flashy when they happen, and probably shows Rodriguez’s most inspired pieces of filmmaking to-date. So many wild and wacky stunts that defy human or scientific logic; so much blood that you could practically fill a pool with; and better yet, an unpredictable feel to each and every scene where you feel as if any character you see, could practically be offed at any given second. For instance, without giving too much away, a couple of characters who are introduced for a good and solid 2 minutes, suddenly bite the dust out of nowhere, which keeps you on-edge and ready to see what happens next with this plot, and the characters that inhabit it. This is where the fun of the movie really lies, and it’s what we have all come to know and love about Rodriguez, even if most of his films seem to only consist of these scenes, if done in a more over-the-top, balls-crazy way. But even then, they’re still fun and exciting to watch, and bring out the best in him. Hence why I can’t wait to see Machete Kills.
And as much as I may get on Rodriguez’s case for taking the easy way out and doing nothing more than “remaking” his first movie, I have to give the guy credit because he found a suitable-enough cast to do it with and keep me interested by. Antonio Banderas was such a perfect choice to replace Carlos Gallardo (who still shows up as a fellow mariachi and band member to Banderas’ character) because he’s able to give us more substance to a character that feels like it needed none, yet, we’re still okay with seeing. Banderas has the look of an action-hero, that’s as tough, nasty, and vengeful as you can get, but also displays a certain heart and sweetness to him that gives you the idea that yes, this dude is not some cabron you want to mess with, but does have a heart when you get right down to the core of him. And the fact that Banderas did all of his own insane stunts, gives this movie even more of a feel of sincerity, despite it still being outrageously crazy and off-kilter at times. However, it also proves that Banderas is the hunk of a Mexican man-meat that almost any lady faints over. They just have to make sure that Mrs. Melanie Banderas isn’t around, or else catfights will most likely ensue.
The rest of the cast is good, even if they don’t get the chance to sink their tooth into their respective roles quite as much, or as well as Banderas does. Joaquim de Almeida plays Bucho, the drug lord who wants this mariachi dead, and displays a ruthless killer you don’t want to mess up a deal with. He and Banderas create a nice rivalry full of suspense and thrills, despite only sharing the same screen for no less than 5 minutes, and even then, it’s still pretty damn intense! Salma Hayek is fine as the gal that the mariachi takes a liking to, and vice versa, even if she doesn’t get much to do. Also, who the hell is going to believe that Salma Hayek not only reads books every single day, but also owns and continues to keep a library up and running? Sorry, just seems unbelievable to me. And there are quite a bit of nice cameos to be seen here, especially ones from people you’d know to see in a Rodriguez movie. Fellow pals like Steve Buscemi, crazy Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, and even Cheech Marin all show up, and do okay jobs with what they have to do; which still isn’t much, but it’s enough to make us happy to see their shiny faces. Okay, maybe not Trejo’s, but you get my drift.
Consensus: Exactly what you’d expect a big-budget, longer, and more attractive remake of El Mariachi to be like, except only that Desperado doesn’t feature anything much more interesting to watch other than a couple of fun action scenes, and alright performances from the cast.
6.5 / 10 = Rental!!
Cool girls can walk away from explosions, too! Don’t you forget!
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, Joblo