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Desperado - Special Edition

Reviewed by: Ryan Cragun
Genre: Action
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround, Portuguese Dolby Surround
Language: Languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese
Subtitle: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese (Mandarin)
Length: 103 min
Rating: R
Release Date: 08/26/2003
Studio: Columbia Pictures

Commentary: Writer/director commentary - Robert Rodriguez
Documentaries: None
Featurettes: 10 more minutes with Robert Rodriguez: Anatomy of a Shootout, First look at Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Filmography/Biography: Robert Rodriguez, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi
Interviews: None
Trailers/TV Spots: Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Love and a Bullet
Alternate/Deleted Scenes: None
Music Video: None
Other: Trial software of Screenblast Movie Studio

Cast and Crew: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi, Joaquim de Almeda, Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Robert Rodriguez
Produced By: Bill Borden and Robert Rodriguez
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Music: Karyn Rachtman, Los Lobos
The Review: El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) has now dedicated his life to killing drug lords, or something to that effect (you have to see the first one to understand why I say 'has now'). For some reason he has it in his mind that Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida), a local drug lord killed his only true love, Domino (again, see El Mariachi for further details though it's pretty plain that it was Moco and not Bucho, but what do I know). Working with Buscemi (Steve Buscemi), who I believe is some sort of CIA or DEA operative who is giving him directions and supplies, El Mariachi is slowly working his way through Bucho's men to find him.

***

When a bar shoot out ends with El Mariachi taking a bullet, the local bookstore owner, Carolina (Salma Hayek), comes to his aide, shelters him, and nurses him back to health so he is able to continue to battle Bucho. But Bucho eventually figures out where El Mariachi is being sheltered and sends his men after El Mariachi and Carolina. El Mariachi hears them coming and shoots his way out, but when given the chance to kill Bucho, he chooses not to.

***

Now that Carolina has been associated with El Mariachi she knows that Bucho won't stop until he kills her. She prevails on El Mariachi to call in some of his mariachi friends for a final showdown with Bucho. El Mariachi does, but it is remarkably short-lived as the rather silly antics of the extra mariachis get them mown down relatively quickly. This leaves El Mariachi and Carolina to face down Bucho.

***

So, of course, they do. When El Mariachi finally finds Bucho's hideout, he confronts him only for the audience to finally realize that Bucho is El Mariachi's brother, which is obviously why he didn't kill him earlier. With all of the killing El Mariachi has done, Bucho is ruined and decides to take it out on his brother. Bucho offers his brother a way out by watching Bucho kill his new girlfriend. Of course El Mariachi won't stand for this a second time so he relents and guns down his brother and the rest of his men - the end.

***

Well, this isn't a very good movie. What's more, it's really bad if you haven't seen the first movie, El Mariachi, for which this is supposed to be the sequel. The only redeeming quality is that it is kind of a low budget film, but that actually turns into a strike against it considering what Robert Rodriguez did with only $7,000.00 on his first feature length film. Why is it so bad?

***

The story... The story is, well, horrible. I could barely follow what was going on. No one ever explains who Buscemi is or what he is doing there. Also, El Mariachi should be painfully aware that Moco, from the first movie, is the person that killed Domino, since he killed him right after he did it. But for some reason he thinks that Bucho did it. I think maybe this is explained by El Mariachi dreaming and being a bit delusional, but that is just me really trying to read into this movie, because it sure isn't explained why he is blaming Bucho for Domino's death when he knows it was Moco. Also, why doesn't El Mariachi know where his brother is and what he's doing? Come on, people get separated from family, but geez, this is ridiculous. It's like the oldest twist in the book, it's super predictable, and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. So, the story really sucks.

***

As for the acting, it's not too bad. There aren't very many really memorable characters. The one thing I do have to mention is that Antonio Banderas did do a decent job of initially making his character human - despite not being able to be hit by bullets, and frankly not caring if he is, he runs out of ammunition all of the time (where he hides all of his spare clips is beyond me) and even has a gun that goes in his groin, though he doesn't use it. But after he gets shot the first time then has three knives stuck in him, he suddenly has superhuman healing powers. He's like Wolverine from X-Men, 'all better' in a matter of minutes. The wounds don't seem to bother him for any longer than it takes to get home, patch them up, and have sex with Salma Hayek. As for the rest of the acting, Steve Buscemi and Joaquim de Almeida were alright. Also I thought Cheech Marin and Quentin Tarantino were pretty good, and Salma Hayek was okay, but the rest of the cast was pretty much non-existent as characters. Of course I have to note that for the most part the rest of the cast was made up either of members of the production crew, local townspeople, or stuntmen, so I shouldn't expect much from them, but still, they weren't great and it kind of detracted from the movie. I did like seeing the original El Mariachi play a role (he's one of the additional Mariachi's, the one with the two machine gun guitar cases).

***

As for the special effects and other budget related elements, they were pretty good. But it almost seemed as though the movie were created around specific special effects. The three mariachis scene seemed that way and so did the opening bar room shoot out. Considering how bad the story was, I wouldn't be surprised if this were actually the case.

***

Overall, the movie isn't very fun to watch. It jumps around, makes very little sense, and there are no really great performances. But there is a way to make it a little bit better, listen to the director's commentary as you watch it. Robert Rodriguez does do a good job of making the director's commentary interesting by explaining, again, how you can make a "low-budget" (I'd like $7 million to make a movie) film and because he is involved with pretty much the entire process (writing, directing, filming, editing, etc.) he really knows what was going on in the film. Overall, don't watch it without having seen El Mariachi first, then look for similarities between the two and listen to the director's commentary. If you do both of these things you might find the movie interesting. I think I would also only recommend this for movie buffs.

Image and Sound: The image and sound are much better than the prequel, El Mariachi. Obviously there was more money to spend on film and audio this time around and the film was taken care of to ensure high quality. Nevertheless, there are some problems with the picture, but they have nothing to do with the excellent digital transfer and everything to do with Rodriguez's continual interest in low-budget filming. A number of the outdoor scenes seem washed out - there is just too much light. Maybe that is the look he was going for, but you get the feeling that the movie was taking place in the middle of a scorching desert rather than in a small Mexican town. Other than not doing a great job with the filming, the picture is excellent.

***

There are also no problems with the sound. There are plenty of explosions and gunfights to really put the sound to the test. I've definitely heard better mastering for films, but this one is pretty good with decent surround sound effects and convincing explosions.

The Extras: The brief 10 minute featurette with Robert Rodriguez is very interesting. It offers a bit more detail and information than the director's commentary with additional footage of some of his storyboards and some behind the scenes footage. He also goes into more detail about his filming process.

***

The first look featurette about Once Upon a Time in Mexico is about the same thing as is offered on El Mariachi. It is a quick montage of clips and interviews, but doesn't really explain the story very well. I guess we'll just have to wait to see what it is when it comes out.

***

I never really find filmographies to be useful additions to a DVD - I can find all of that information plus much more online, so I don't really see it as a bonus. I also don't consider trailers to be much of a bonus; if you watch them it's just free advertising for the production companies. I didn't try out the free software, it would just be more trial software that would bog down my already stuffy hard drive.

***

Overall, the only thing that is really actually kind of nice is the 10 minute featurette. The rest of the stuff is kind of wasted space.

Commentary: As noted in my review, the director/writer commentary is excellent. Robert Rodriguez, being involved with nearly every aspect of the production process, has first hand knowledge of the entire film and therefore can offer lots of additional insights and information. And, like the commentary for El Mariachi, it is chuck full of information, so much so that I'm not even going to go into it. It is incredibly interesting and I would highly recommend that you watch the whole thing because it is so interesting. Just one tidbit from it... If it wasn't for the director/writer commentary I wouldn't have known that the original El Mariachi was even in the movie, but Robert Rodriguez points him out when he shows up. Keep your eyes peeled for him.

Final Words: This is a pretty crappy movie. It has a horrible story that doesn't make sense even if you've seen the prequel. The acting isn't stellar, but it is bearable, with the main characters thankfully being the best of the lot. What does make this movie interesting and worthwhile is that it is a quasi low-budget film with a $7 million price tag. And, the director's commentary highlights how you can make a reasonable decent (in terms of special effects anyway) film for so little money. I actually liked the first one better because the story made more sense, but this is one movie buffs will want to see, just because Rodriguez has developed an interesting little niche in the movie industry.

 

 
 
 
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