“When you wake up in the morning and the light hurts your head. The first thing you do when you get up out of bed, is hit the streets a-runnin’ and try to beat the masses, and go get yourself some cheap sunglasses.” –ZZ Top
Well, Happy Seis de Mayo, hoping your Cinco celebration was fun and safe. A majority of you, Mexican or not, most likely partook in the fiesta of food, cold cerveza, and Takillya…pardon, I meant Tequila. The annual celebration is observed to commemorate the 1862 Battle of Puebla when the Mexican Army scored a “W” in their bloody victory over the French. So, you could be from South Philly (Italian Mob territory), and celebrate this Mexican holiday, because isn’t that what America does? We show support for our fellow citizens, by adopting another day as an excuse to get snookered even though a majority of us aren’t from Mexico. Hopefully you didn’t drink too much, but if you did, today is probably going to be a rough one for you esé. Our protagonist in today’s feature, El Mariachi (1992), had one helluva rough day, making your hangover look like a joke hombre.
In a small Mexican town, a ruthless criminal, Azul, Reinol Martinez of Desperado (1995), busts out of jail seeking redemption against drug lord, Moco, the late Peter Marquardt of Spy Kids 3: Game Over (2003), who got him incarcerated in the first place. Moco, now a free man with fire in his eyes and hate in his heart, travels with a guitar case which contents consist of a small arsenal of guns. Meanwhile, a young, naive Mariachi, Carlos Gallardo of Planet Terror (2007), arrives in town trying to carry on the family tradition as a musician, carrying a guitar case as well.
On the outskirts of town in his fortress surrounded by his hired goons, Moco deploys his foot soldiers to kill Azul. In the case of mistaken identity that has been seen time and time before in cinema, Moco’s men follow the Mariachi due to Azul and him carrying guitar cases around town. Before you know it, our hero accidently picks up the wrong guitar case when he and Azul by chance, are at the same watering hole. The Mariachi now armed and striving to survive, ends up having a horrific day of gun fights, playing cat and mouse with Moco’s men, and if he didn’t have enough on his plate, falls in love with bar owner Dominó, Consuelo Gómez of Desperado, who lets him hideout at her place.
El Mariachi is an action flick written/directed/edited by Robert Rodriguez of From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). El Mariachi was filmed on a miniscule budget of $7,000—yes $7,000, and brought in over $2 million. Rodriguez has stated that if it was for the high cost of film stock and processing, he could have filmed El Mariachi for $600! Though you may shy away from watching El Mariachi due to the amount of money that was spent on it (or lack of), I can assure you that this is one of the most entertaining, ambitious, and professionally filmed features out there. El Mariachi, to this day, still inspires many first time filmmakers to get off their duff, pick up their camera, and make a film. Rodriguez raised the money from family members and the rest of the budget by admitting himself to a research facility for a month to work as a guinea pig for experimental medications.
Rodriquez also was also the cinematographer, and had such a distinct visual style that employed the use of weird camera angles and sped up action shots that brings a lot of cartoonish excitement to the screen. It is apparent that Rodriguez is a devoted film junkie as he dabbled in the nuances of old silent films, westerns, and action films that served as inspiration for El Mariachi.
El Mariachi landed Rodriguez a lucrative financial deal for future projects, and has gone on to be a competent and industrious filmmaker, helming his Troublemaker Studios from his ranch in Austin, Texas. Rodriguez has succeeded more than he originally ever intended, the kid just wanted to make a movie and sell it to Mexican video companies. El Mariachi was the first in Rod’s Mexican trilogy and was followed by Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003). Rodriguez has matured into a brand, created the salsa flavored El Rey Network, and released a book on his experience making El Mariachi in Rebel Without a Crew (Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker with $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player).
Overall, El Mariachi is a fun film to catch and should be viewed by everyone at least once. It’s a quick kill with a runtime of 81 minutes, and at no time is this little film with a big heart ever boring. Hollywood wishes they could tell a story in such a fun, energetic way like El Mariachi. Once again, this fuels my standing gripe that the suits of the studios waste too much money and don’t know la mierda from Shinola.
So, if you are still nursing your hangover, grab some water, tortilla chips and watch El Mariachi. It will lift your spirits in a natural way, through simple enjoyment from some of best TexMex Indy film around. Remember troop, Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Twitter Rick Baldwin@rickbaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org