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El Mariachi

Year: 1992
Production Co: Columbia Pictures
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Producer: Robert Rodriguez
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Just like you can't call yourself a Tarantino fan without having seen Pulp Fiction, you have to have seen this film at some stage if you liked From Dusk Till Dawn or Planet Terror.

The movie geek lore of how Rodriguez sold himself for medical experiments to rasie the money to make it has grown larger than the film itself (Columbia put up the post production and promotion money when they bought it from him), so it's worth approaching it at face value. When you do, you're still pleasantly surprised, expecting an ultra-cheap movie that's all distinctive aesthetic, a mood in search of a story.

It's certainly cheap, the film stock looking like stuff Rodriguez bought off a toothless guy selling cervezas by the side of the road. And it certainly has a distinctive mood, all Tex-Mex heat haze and seedy, earthenware towns filled with automatic weapon-toting muchachos.

But the story is more engaging than you expect. A young musician comes arrives in a new town with his beloved guitar in its unmissable case seeking work as a bar entertainer, but jobs are thin on the ground.

Meanwhile, a local crime lord has double crossed one of his minions for long enough, and when he puts a hit out on his at the prison we find him guarding in the beginning, enough is enough. The minion blows away the assassins, rounds up his posse and goes on the rampage to get what he's owed with his guitar case filled with guns, one that looks suspiciously like another one making it's way around town.

When the goons sent out after him cross paths with El Mariachi, a case of mistaken identity ensues and they're after the wrong man.

He somehow manages to stay one step ahead of a bloody death in a hail of bullets and gets a job at the bar owned by a pretty local. When they fall for each other, we learn she's the crime lord's favoured woman, and revenge is swift when she spurns his advances one last time. The minion seeking vengeance takes her hostage to make his way into the crime lord's compound with El Mariachi hot on their heels to save his lover, and the stage is set for bloodshed.

If like most people you've only seen Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico, this fills in a few of the mysteries that linger from them, and despite the obvious lack of a budget it's a very stylised and slickly produced film with a distinctive tone and look.

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