El Mariachi - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

El Mariachi Reviews

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April 8, 2016
Showing much inventive promise (and a strong sense of humor) with the breakout hit El Mariachi, writer/director (and sound mixer, grip, cinematographer, publicist, caterer and many, many other things) Robert Rodriguez's 1992/3 debut "home movie" should serve as a reminder that much can be achieved when resources are limited and a strong sense of story and smart filmmaking technique can carry a crafty idea all the way through to a satisfactory finish. With a very clever (but simple) setup about mistaken identity, Rodriguez crams this 90-minute editorial exercise into a neo-western shoot 'em up with impressive action and even more impressive characterization. The writing is a tad pulpy but the broad strokes perfectly compliment the fun and energetic film style for the bloody good time in the first chapter of Robert Rodriguez's "Mexico Trilogy", El Mariachi.
½ April 3, 2016
Being Robert Rodriguez's feature length debut, El Mariachi sounded like a grand step back to where it all began for him.

Having seen El Mariachi before, I was a fan of it simply for being a good low-budget action film with a clever enough story. Having read about the nature of the production in Robert Rodriguez's production diary Rebel Without a Crew (1995), the production comes off as all the more impressive. Though the name of Robert Rodriguez is extremely high-profile today, it must be remembered that El Mariachi was created on a budget of $7,000 by two men who were nameless at the time. Therefore it is to be judged as both a home-video quality low-budget Mexploitation piece and the start of Robert Rodriguez's path to auteur status. Well enough, it is a success in both areas.
El Mariachi carries many of the flaws synonymous with low-budget action cinema, not even attempting to disguise them due to the obvious technical limitations of the production. Robert Rodriguez embraces the issues that come with his low-budget and works to find innovations in other ways, and the passion is clear. Though the story has clever elements to it, it remains a familiar tale of mistaken identity in an action film. The cleverness comes in the way that the story combines multiple themes into this notion. For example, The element of the titular Mariachi failing to find work in a contemporary world where electrically manufactured music is dominating is a key aspect of the film's relevance as western. The theme of a changing generation is very postmodern, and The Mariachi's opposition to violence in a world that plunges him into war for the sake of survival ties into this also, and yet the use of blood, gore and action mirrors the style of spaghetti westerns. The greatest influence I would cite here is the work of Sergio Corbucci on the classic Django (1966). There are also strong elements of nihilistic violence and vengeance in there, so there is enough genuine passion in the story to make it work. By contrast to countless similar action-thrillers, one thing which elevates the status of El Mariachi is the narration. Though it is a conventional manner of providing character depth, the fact that El Mariachi actively makes any kind of effort to provide audiences with perspective on the protagonist's mind even though it is sporadic. Frankly, if there is anything to complain about it's the fact that the limitations of the story's scale leave it to move along at a slow pace, even though it only runs for a total of 78 minutes in the end. A romantic plot point is thrown in there to help stretch things on, but despite the familiarity of this it is definitely essential to the universe Robert Rodriguez created with El Mariachi.
In terms of its technical value, El Mariachi makes the most use of its small budget. It's resolution is slightly rough and some of the shots may appear a little too close to comprehend everything in the best manner, but most of the experience is great. The natural Mexican scenery perfectly conveys the feeling of a dilapidated world of emptiness for the working class. And the cinematography is fairly solid. The manner in which the camera tracks the characters and presents them with close-ups is very similar to John Woo's style of filmmaking, particularly in Hard Boiled (1992. The combination between quick cuts and slow motion in the action scenes lives up to this notion as well. The quick cuts play a key role in many scenes in the film as they move the film along quickly enough for viewers not to notice some of the amateur elements of the cinematography or continuity flaws. The smartest use of this technique comes from the sequences which are edited to make it look like many of the weapons fire at an automatic rate when in actuality it is simply multiple semi-automatic gunshots cut between footage of characters getting hit by bullets against the backdrop of sound effects.
The sound editing in El Mariachi is solid, and the musical score is extremely subtle which allows audiences to gain a feeling of the silent emptiness of the world around the characters yet still make use of an original composition to enhance the mood. And the use of Spanish guitar music helps to add cultural value to the experience.
And though El Mariachi makes use of inexperienced actors, there isn't any shortage of talent in the performances even though the film doesn't prioritize characters.
Carlos Gallardo makes a respectable lead as the titular role of El Mariachi. Capturing the aimless nature of a drifter with a passion for music, Carlos Gallardo remains consistently driven by his character's empty existence and is able to keep an intense headspace as a result. And having to perform all his own stunts, Carlos Gallardo transfers that state of mind into his entire physicality so that his movements are driven by his emotional state. He doesn't speak many words, but he is able to keep up with the mood of the film with ease. Carlos Gallardo delivers a solid leading performance.
Consuela Gomez manages to capture a slick and gentle nature to support the romantic edge of the story and interacts with Carlos Gallardo with a very solid chemistry. The moments they share on screen together are the most slow and character-driven parts of the film since they take a break from all the violence of the narrative to focus on a love story, and the obligatory nature of this pot point is transcended by the subtle passion shared between these two cast members.
Reinol Martinez maintains a firm edge of grit to him in the part of Azul, and Peter Marquardt's straight-edged sadism makes him an ideal psychotic antagonist.

El Mariachi's small scale, steady pace and simple premise as synonymous with its $7,000 budget, but the solid intensity of the film's gritty nature and stylized action boasts a powerful spark of credibility on behalf of Robert Rodriguez.
April 3, 2016
Indie classic that started the Mexican trilogy
March 4, 2016
Robert Rodriguez's low-budget masterpiece is a fun exploitation film as well as an inspiration to aspiring film students showing necessity is the mother of invention.
½ February 16, 2016
cheaply made. but very good movie. in spanish. So must read English subtitles. i did.
January 13, 2016
One of the type of movies I am glad I did not miss out on.
January 5, 2016
Schlocky and amateurish b-movie action fun. Considering the experience and resources that were behind it though, it's pretty damn impressive.
½ November 29, 2015
11/29/2015: Only watched the first 30 min and it was horrible! I don't understand the good ratings at all.
½ October 28, 2015
A Likable Foreign Flick. It's Simple But effective Style Explores Life In Small Town Mexico. Bit Violent & In Your Face But Wasn't Too Bad..Esp Considering The Small Budget It Worked With.
Bo
½ May 31, 2015
Such a great, exciting film. Extraordinary for a first-time feature on a budget of $7000.
May 27, 2015
Robert Rodriguez made his feature film debut in this well made action film on a budget. He knew exactly how to shoot the film and how to limit the story to exactly what he could utilize in the film, never reaching beyond his grasp on his budget. The action is solid, the story is decent...and for a no-budget feature film with a lot of amateurs, the acting isn't half bad. A solid debut from a solid filmmaker.
April 26, 2015
Pretty cool for such a low budget movie. Plus the lead woman is hot. :-D
April 23, 2015
I'm gonna make a movie just like this. But with a luchador instead. And a cat instead of a turtle. Kickstart me? It's gonna happen.
½ April 21, 2015
Despite its familiar plot and a super tight budget, El Mariachi is a very enjoyable action flick.
½ March 23, 2015
The 90´s were the golden era of independent films which served as the debut features of multiple directors that show potential like Christopher Nolan with "Following", Quentin Tarantino with "Reservoir Dogs", Darren Aronofsky with "Pi", Guillermo Del Toro with "Cronos" and Robert Rodriguez with "El Mariachi".
We follow the path of a young and naïve musician who travels around Mexico in order to find adventures as a mariachi, he dreams to become a skilled mariachi as his father and grandfather before him. Soon he arrives to a small town with believing that this maybe his "lucky town" but the young mariachi is unaware that this town will change his careless lifestyle.
Robert Rodriguez has always been a director that I consider a cheaper, goofier and more juvenile version of Tarantino that lacks Quentin´s writing abilities, and to be honest I´ve never loved his extremely over the top style but in "El Mariachi" it works perfectly. "El Mariachi" is a film made with an extremely low budget consisting of seven thousand dollars but it somehow managed to become one of the most memorable and entertaining independent films I´ve ever seen. The film is filled with mediocre acting, small location, cheesy dialog and a somewhat cliché story, so you may be wondering how it managed to be memorable and achieved all the acclaimed it got with all those limitations. "El Mariachi" counts with numerous creative elements that make this cliché story interesting, the protagonist is charming and his character development is satisfying, the pacing is implacably fast, the acting is mediocre but incredibly fun to watch, it has memorable visuals, it has a perfect amount of humor, a remarkable mixture of genres (western, comedy and a little dose of drama), special effects that work regardless of the financial limitations, an enormous entertainment value, credible and well executed action sequences and Rodriguez´s improvised direction helps the experience "El Mariachi" offers.
"El Mariachi" is an admirable indie film that achieved more than its low budget intended to, it is a highly entertaining, fun and memorable film and Rodriguez best film to date. Sure, it is by no means a masterpiece and not everybody will like it due to its financial limitations but it still a must see if you are into indie films.
February 15, 2015
Low cost action movie enjoyable as hell. Banderas has nothing to do with Gallardo.
January 16, 2015
A remarkable achievement in being broke. This film is a must watch for aspiring filmmakers and spanish speaking turtle lovers.
½ January 6, 2015
The movie that started it all for the greatest man in the industry today, Robert Rodriguez. After seeing this film, watching the making of and reading the book; this is truly how a film should be approached and made.
½ December 18, 2014
A stunning debut by Robert Rodriguez. I absolutely loved the creative, amateurish style early on and whenever pausing it hoped there would still be a lot of running time left. Rodriguez used his austere budget to make a colossally entertaining action flick, yet his angles and transitions give it an artistic and clever touch.
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