Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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A classic action from 90s with a Mexican theme, starring Antonio Banderas, and some funny visual effects.
If you love Quentin Tarantino, westerns, or movies where a lone character absolutely decimates an entire population of villains (à la Atomic Blonde, The Equalizer, or John Wick), you will love Desperado. Written and Directed by Robert Rodriguez (recently known for directing Alita: Battle Angel), this is definitely his best movie. It's an original story, written produced and directed by RR himself. Interestingly enough Desperado is the second in Rodriguez's El Mariachi trilogy, which all more or less have the same premise: musician's love interest is killed at the hands of a gangster, and "the mariachi" goes on a quest for revenge. No one saw the first movie of the trilogy because no one memorable was in it, and the third entry Once Upon A Time In Mexico was too ambitious for it's own good, with a massive cast of characters that frankly diluted the fun out of the whole movie. Aside from a few memorable lines from Johnny Depp, it's mostly forgettable.
BUT NOT DESPERADO! It's the perfect blend of cinematography, music, and great script, made even better by the smooth yet seething Antonio Banderas as El Mariachi (EM), and the sexy-as-all-heck Salma Hayek as Carolina the librarian love interest. The opening 8 minutes sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Steve Buscemi walks into a seedy bar and proceeds to emphatically and with great showmanship tell the story of the "biggest Mexican I've ever @&*$#%! seen" who massacred a bar full of low-lifes a few towns away. His story is aided by frequent cuts to said bar where the titular character performs physically impossible feats of execution. Half the fun of the movie is watching the characters learn about the terror of El Mariachi and watching their reactions when he finally arrives. And when he does, the heavy guitar music ramps up, and the set pieces provide an extremely fun backdrop for some great shoot outs.
Yet despite everyone painting EM as an immortal demon and an omen of death, the audience knows he is just a man, and seeing him get battered and bruised keeps the tension high through the entire hundred and seven minute running time. The concept of plot armor doesn't seem to exist, at least based on how much he gets injured, and this serves to keep the stakes high. In addition, the witty and frankly sizzling banter between EM and Carolina will make you laugh, and probably wish you knew how to play an acoustic guitar. Their relationship serves to give EM's character more depth than the average movie assassin, and is why he is one of Robert Rodriguez's better written movie characters.
At the core of the film is a sad tale of how a man with a love of life and a talent for music fell onto a path of darkness and death. Themes of family, love, and self-forgiveness are used to give the story some emotional weight, but only enough to drive the story and not enough to depress the viewer. It's a little harder to empathize with John Wick because he was originally an assassin, but EM was a simple guitarrista who had so much potential, but became consumed by a desire for revenge. This becomes even more poignant in the final act after he learns a shocking (some might argue obvious) secret, and is forced to make a hard decision.
The music is really one of the highlights of the movie. As the film takes place in a rural Mexico town, the genre of music employed is appropriately Ranchera, which originated in the rural ranches of the country. Think Carlos Santana meets traditional mariachi music (take a listen to the opening song to see what I mean). The fast paced shoot outs are riddled with as much music as they are bullets, and the fact that the music is actually tied into the plot makes it even better.
The cinematography also matches the gritty tone of the film nicely. Half the movie is an experiment to see how many epic brooding shots Robert Rodriguez can squeeze out of Antonio Banderas. It's a visual feast that makes me wish I could be half as cool.
The movie's other characters have much less screen time, which for some is fine and for others is a shame. Cheech Marin and even Quentin Tarantino himself make fun cameos, but the movie's villain is pretty standard fare. We don't see him commit any terrible atrocities, which makes him seem much less intimidating. Honestly it doesn't matter too much, as he is mostly a vehicle for the plot and for EM to participate in the bloodiest bar crawl in the history of cinema. As far as I know. At least in Mexico.
What I do know is that Desperado is a fun ride from start to finish. At minimum, you'll pick up some smooth pick up lines. At most, you'll have a new favorite movie to watch again again.
The plot isn't exactly deep and neither are the characters, but with a bigger budget and some badass gunfights, Desperado is a pretty good sequel to El Mariachi.
Boy, am I glad that people liked El Mariachi enough to allow Robert Rodriguez another crack at the story and characters within it, for this is far superior to the 1992 indie darling in nearly every regard. The performances are more professional, the dialogue is more memorable, the action is unforgettable, and even the campiness is played up to a much more successful degree. And things haven't exactly been ramped up in terms of budget this time around either, still proving that you can make a worthwhile action film without breaking the bank.
Very boring forgettable movie starring Antonio banderas . I'll forget about this movie in t minus 2 seconds.
Many would say this as the Hollywood remake of the first movie, but still really holds up with Banderas and Hayek's performances, and even more entertaining action sequences that are so thrilling.
A really underrated gem. Must see classic which holds up spectacularly twenty four years later.
The opening scene of Desperado is superb, and sets the bar pretty high. In fact, I’m not sure the movie that follows ever quite lives up to that scene. There’s something about the way Steve Buscemi tells this story that makes it feel like a fable, and intercutting with scenes from the actual bar fight is magic. I was completely on board, and kind of excited to see this mythological character continue his mission of vengeance. It was an adjustment when I realized that Antonio Banderas was not quite the character described. He’s a fallible gunslinger who is good, but not as intimidating as they set him up. Luckily, Banderas is totally suave, so he won me over with his natural charisma. The introduction of Salma Hayek didn’t hurt either. She is equally charming and they make a perfect pair. The story of Desperado is straightforward and one that we’ve all seen before. I was hoping for something a bit more powerful than this basic revenge story, and the reveal of Bucho’s connection to El Mariachi wasn’t enough of a twist to make it more interesting. However, what it lacks in plot it makes up for in fun action sequences. There are a lot of crazy shoot-out scenes, and Rodriguez keeps it all high-energy and exciting. None of it is realistic, but this is one of those action sequences more concerned with ramping up excitement and drama than deciding what surfaces are bulletproof or how accurate each person should be with a gun. I don’t even feel like they were concerned with locking down the movie in a specific timeframe, because it feels so old-fashioned at times, but then the technology is clearly from modern-day. The last act of the film, and the final confrontations were the biggest problem I had. For one thing, there are reinforcements called in for El Mariachi and it was cheesy to say the least. The instrument cases shooting missiles and stuff like that took the movie too over-the-top for my taste. Then the final showdown didn’t have the same intensity that I had felt in earlier scenes, and the dispatching of the big bad guy was underwhelming. There was so much potential built up throughout the film that I just expected something mind-blowing or extremely dramatic to wrap up the story, and instead it fizzled out. That being said, Desperado had enough enjoyable action and some good dramatic dialogue, so I’d be happy to see it again. Plus the cast was great, and that opening sequence was so masterful that it could stand as a short film all on its own.
one of my favorites!
My top 5 movie of all time!
As superb as the action is, the rest of the movie save for a few scenes of crazed brilliance, feels like a rehashing of the original.