Desperado (1995): A Fantastic Revenge Drama


“Desperado” is the second film in Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexico Trilogy.” A trilogy I plan to watch in full at some point. The movie stands strong on it’s own as a revenge flick and previews what Robert Rodriguez is good at; choosing a great cast, huge body counts, revenge and action. The story is simple which I think serves to Rodriguez’s strength.

“Desperado” was as stated above, directed by Robert Rodriguez who also wrote and produced it. The other producer credit for this film goes to Bill Borden.

The story is about a man who is avenging the death of his lover by the gang boss Bucho in the area as things get more complicated as he forms and loses relationships in his war against Bucho as he seeks to find himself and a reason beyond revenge in the bloodbath.

The Pros: The Action – Robert Rodriguez like Quentin Tarantino has an eye for how to make gore so over the top and elegant that it is an art form in how it is presented. Each action seen feels full but never overcrowded like special effects from the Star Wars Special Editions and Prequels. One of the great action scenes is when the Mariachi band reunites, one has his guitar case turned into a rocket launcher while the other wields two cases that are machine guns.

The Characters

El Mariachi – Antonio Banderas is great as the hero El Mariachi who is seeking to grow beyond his scars and finding a reason to live beyond killing. We see how the death of his lover by the mob has shaped him into the weapon he is now..and his seeking of a reason behind it and connecting to other human being again. There is a great moment where his allies arrive who are also Mariachi members who use instrument cases as weapons.

Carolina – Salma Hayek is good as the secondary protagonist Carolina who is trying to get out of a bad situation. We see her fight for herself on multiple occasions against Bucho and work with El Mariachi against the mob. She owns a bookstore that she puts on the line for El Mariachi.

Bucho – Joaquim de Almeida is a good baddie with a personal connection to El Mariachi. We see how this has influenced his actions and that in the end he is a complicated villain. Still a villain, but a complicated one. He is also dangerous too and feels like a threat the entire time, giving reason for El Mariachi to call in the band. Also his death feels like it means something which adds power to the story.

Pick-Up Guy – Quentin Tarantino plays this small comedic part that adds layers and levity to the performance as he is a guy just looking for easy money who soon finds himself out of his league. It is a great cameo on Tarantino’s part. His guest appearances are part of what make a Rodriguez film for me.

Navajas – Another great cameo on the part of Danny Trejas. Navajas is a dangerous knife wielding thug who is only there to try and kill El Mariachi. He does the role well though and it’s almost a shame he doesn’t stick around longer as he was one of the more interesting thugs hunting El Mariachi.

The Plot – It is very well paced. It has great rising action leading to the big gun fight between Bucho’s minions and the Mariachi band and coming to head with the big reveal about Bucho’s relationship to El Mariachi the main character. The ending has El Mariachi reflecting on all those he has killed as he sits at the bed of a child who was caught in the big gunfight. He also gets to move on to some degree at the end and is no longer haunted by the ghost of his former lover and what was done to him.

The Music – Is fantastic! It is a mixture of western, traditional Mariachi and classic rock. It is very Rodriguez that way. He is great at mixing his influences in the soundtracks he creates for his films. Los Lobos was fantastic in making this.

Okay: The Message – The thing about Revenge films is you can more often than not predict what the message is  going to be. It will either be “Revenge is empty and you have to move on with life,” or “Revenge is life, there will always be horrible people that need to be put down.” The ending goes at first with the first premise with his reflecting on the injured child and later after he casts away his case for Carolina but he later picks it back up again, “Just in case,” which supports the second premise. I guess that is the danger of a trilogy, especially one built on revenge. In the end can the case ever be put down? Nolan was lucky that Bruce Wayne was able to go on living after Rises in the comics he can’t live without being Batman. This is how it seems to be for the El Mariachi at this point in the trilogy. Okay and predictable message and one that opted for both…but it wasn’t bad, especially in how they executed it.

If you love action and a solid story you will enjoy this movie. It made me want to check out the rest of the “Mexico Trilogy” and gave me a great appreciation of Robert Rodriguez as a director…like Tarantino he is directing and doing what he loves.

I would give this film an 8.4 / 10.

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