El Mariachi (1992)
February 24, 2018 3:31 PM - Subscribe

A traveling mariachi is mistaken for a murderous criminal and must hide from a gang bent on killing him.

Empire: A then twenty-four-year-old Robert Rodriguez's (Sin City, From Dusk Til Dawn) amazingly assured feature debut cost a mind-blowingly minuscule $7,000 to make but is more than just an example of brilliance over no budget. Using the well-worn theme of mistaken identity, writer-director-producer-editor-cameraman Rodriguez has here crafted an action flick infinitely more exciting than many a film costing ten thousand times as much, transcending its budgetary limitations with wonderful ingenuity, invention and sassy wit.

Roger Ebert: This story of coincidences and mistaken identities is so obviously contrived that it's almost a parody of itself, but the film's style saves it and gives it charm. Shooting with amateur actors on real locations, plundering his surroundings for his shots and props, Rodriguez gets a gritty, sweaty, dusty feel that drips with atmosphere. Although "El Mariachi" is peopled with stereotypes and told with broad strokes, there is somehow an authenticity about it; it feels committed to its story.

WaPo: Watching it, you feel as if Rodriguez had never seen any other movies before he made this one; that he believes he was the first to address the idea of, say, a wrongly accused man being chased down a hot, crowded Mexican street by four men with guns. And that, given no earlier models to work from, he had to invent the vocabulary of the chase, right there on the spot. He's like D.W. Griffith, an inventor-pioneer ad-libbing the complete language of film, off the cuff, for the very first time.

That's how this enormously entertaining example of street haiku makes you feel -- like your mind's eye was fresh and inexperienced. The picture isn't a classic or anything like that. On the one hand, it's too basic, too crude to be much more than a curiosity. On the other, it's too conceptual, too concentrated, to be pigeonholed as the work of a primitive novice.

NYTimes: "El Mariachi" is a skillful, familiar-feeling hybrid of film noir and western conventions, with a hint of futuristic nihilism in its final scenes. It is also visually primitive, with a home-movie look that would be distracting if Mr. Rodriguez's storytelling skills were not so keen. While rough around the edges, "El Mariachi" displays a textbook knowledge of Hollywood hallmarks: stock characters (the soigne villain, the decorative moll), well-staged shootouts, showy camera work (fisheye, slow-motion and zoom flourishes), dream sequences and broad humor. If this were music rather than movies, "El Mariachi" would be the demo version of a sure-fire hit record.


The Making of "El Mariachi" - The Robert Rodriguez Ten Minute Film School

Robert Rodriguez Recalls His Entree to Hollywood With Student Film ‘El Mariachi’

A FILM FOR A SONG: Robert Rodriguez’s Garage Movie.

"El Mariachi" 20 Years Later

Robert Rodriguez Celebrates ‘El Mariachi’s 25th Anniversary By Directing Another $7,000 Film

Nostalgic Images of Mexican Masculinity in the Films of Robert Rodriguez: From El Mariachi to Machete
posted by MoonOrb (8 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I loved this movie so much I never even went to see the big-budget remake. The whole idea of a big-budget remake of this scrappy little indie offended me, even if the same filmmaker was doing it. Rodriguez has been incredibly hit and miss since then (mostly miss, if we're being honest) but this debut was a gem.

I got curious about whether Rodriguez had ever directed that other $7K film, and while I don't see that project on his Wikipedia page I did find this oddity, a film that won't be released for 100 years.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2018

I loved this movie so much I never even went to see the big-budget remake.

Are you talking about Desperado? That's a sequel, not a remake, and is worth seeing for some enormously inventive action scenes and tremendous casting.

The third part of the series, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, is worth seeing because it's so fucking weird, although Johnny Depp is in it and I am just done with him.
posted by maxsparber at 8:13 AM on February 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I remember thinking this was just a great little movie when I saw it.

Modern indie movies - even the ultra low-budget ones - just don't have the same feel now, because everyone's shooting on digital so you don't have to worry about timing your shots to minimize wasted film stock.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:15 AM on February 25, 2018

That's a sequel, not a remake

It's been a while. All's I remembered was that Antonio Banderas took over the lead role from Carlos Gallardo, Gallardo got demoted to another, smallish part and the trailers seemed to be mostly explosions and Salma Hayek's boobs. Knowing Rodriguez's overall style now it's probably the movie he wanted El Mariachi to be, but at the time it struck me as a big Hollywood-ization of this weird micro-indie I'd adored. Maybe I'll give it a chance sometime.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:43 PM on February 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

This movie was tremendously inspiring when I was 14. Everything in it seemed to be simple and formulaic, and yet it worked enough to have people enjoying it.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:30 AM on February 26, 2018

Robert Rodriguez' 10 minute cooking school, Puerco Pibil, a dish featured in the Mariachi series.
posted by mikelieman at 1:07 PM on February 26, 2018

And my copy of the recipe from above
posted by mikelieman at 1:08 PM on February 26, 2018

I really liked El Mariachi but I liked Desperado just fine too - I'm a massive Dire Straits fan so it was preordained, but I also have my favorite lines, "Not yet..." and the cheerfully delivered "Hot water."
posted by ftm at 3:49 PM on February 26, 2018

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