El Mariachi Reviews
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.