Netflix Movie Review: El Mariachi
By: Alec Davis
El Mariachi (1992)
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Carlos Gallardo, Consuelo Gómez, Jaime De Hoyos, Peter Marquardt, Reinol Martinez
I recently read Robert Rodriguez’s memoir about how he made El Mariachi, so I figured this would be a good opportunity to rewatch it and share this wonderful movie with some more people. I’m going to talk about a lot of behind the scenes stuff because it’s completely unavoidable with this one, but first thing’s first: the movie itself.
The plot of El Mariachi is remarkably simple. A mariachi singer (Carlos Gallardo) arrives in the Mexican town of Acuña looking for work, with nothing but a few pesos and a guitar. Unfortunately for him, a local drug lord (Peter Marquardt) has his men out looking to kill an assassin (Reinol Martinez), who is described as wearing black and carrying a guitar case (which happens to be full of guns). The cartel members see the mariachi and assume he’s the man they’re looking for, and things get a bit hectic for everyone involved.
The story is really solid and well written, and Rodriguez does some really creative things with the editing to play with humor and creating tension, but you can also tell this movie was made for cheap, and a lot of the other aspects of the film would, under normal circumstances, make this a three or four star movie. But El Mariachi is not normal.
This was Robert Rodriguez’s first film (as well as the first installment of his Mariachi trilogy, which was continued with Desperado and Once Upon A Time In Mexico), and he made it completely by himself, with no crew, for $7000. It’s honestly a truly impressive feat of filmmaking, and it’s because of this movie that I consider Rodriguez a personal hero. The acting isn’t great, but when you consider that literally nobody in the movie is an actor (Peter Marquardt didn’t even know a word of Spanish and had to have his lines just offscreen so he could read them) and that everything was done in exactly one take, you can’t help but be impressed that the acting is as good as it is. And that’s kind of the great thing about El Mariachi. It looks very obviously like a low-budget movie, but not distractingly so. The narrative is intense and engaging enough that you don’t pay a lot of attention to the errors caused by the production value.
And even ignoring the fact that this was made for no money, it’s still a great movie, and there’s a reason it was winning film festivals back in ’92 and launched a nobody kid from Texas to Hollywood stardom pretty much overnight.
Since not everyone can afford to go to the theater to see a new movie every weekend, I’ll be here every week to tell you about a movie you can find on Netflix instead. Because we can all use some good movies in our lives.