1995, Movie, R, 106 mins


The sequel to EL MARIACHI (1991) is better described as a big-budget remake. The nameless mariachi (Antonio Banderas) still has the guitar case full of guns he accidentally acquired in the first film, and has been wandering the border between Texas andMexico border, leaving a trail of dead drug lords in his wake. Now only one remains, a man called Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida). Accompanied by only friend, Buscemi (Steve Buscemi), El Mariachi tracks Bucho to a lethargic little town whose residents have been intimidated into acting as drug runners and money launderers. After turning the local hellhole bar into an abattoir, El Mariachi narrowly escapes death at the hand of a knife-throwing mob assassin, and is sheltered by Carolina (Salma Hayek), the proprietor of the town's much-ignored book store. Carolina shares her home and bed with him, but the mariachi suspects he may be outmatched by Bucho and his henchmen. He reluctantly calls upon maniacal musicians Campa (EL MARIACHI star Carlos Gallardo) and Quino (Albert Michel, Jr.), whose guitar cases conceal machine guns and rocket launchers. After a fiery battle in the streets, the mariachi must go mano a mano with Bucho at his compound. Armed with a much larger budget than he had for EL MARIACHI, Robert Rodriguez clearly set out to make an over-the-top, both-guns-blasting action picture and delivers the goods. Rodriguez's skill at crafting action sequences full of tricky gunplay, precise camera movement and intricate choreography — all showcased in loving slow motion — is always evident, and even at its bloodiest, the film is never less than slick and stylish. Taken to task by many critics as lacking the kind of story and character development that made EL MARIACHI so refreshing, Rodriguez's follow-up is unquestionably formulaic but mercifully free of the flat dialogue and arch one-liners that undermine so many action films. And while it lacks EL MARIACHI's naive charm, it's far funnier. 1995 was a big year for Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, who appeared in MIAMI RHAPSODY, ASSASSINS, NEVER TALK TO STRANGERS and Rodriguez's FOUR ROOMS, but was most effective showcased here. Rodriguez created smaller roles for friends Buscemi, Cheech Marin (turns in a surprisingly strong performance as the local bartender) and Quentin Tarantino, and it's a shame he disposes of them so quickly; their hasty executions leave a comedic hole in the film's latter half. (Graphic violence, nudity, profanity.) leave a comment

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