Tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo, or El Dia de la Batalla de Puebla, which is a holiday known second to only St. Patrick’s Day for providing an excuse to drink (like any of us actually need one). In honor of this observance of Mexican heritage and pride, I thought it best to add to the vault a film that features the biggest Mexican I’ve ever seen!
I am, of course, referring to Salma Hayek. Ay-yo0o! Desperado introduced mainstream audiences to the beautiful and talented Salma Hayek with her role as the tough bookstore owner Carolina, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one; a weaselly gringo (Steve Buscemi) walks into a dingy bar in Santa Cecilia and tells a tall tale about this big-as-shit Mexican mariachi (Antonio Banderas) who he witnessed massacring a neighboring bar full of scumbags in the pursuit of the drug dealer Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida). Yeah, no one in the bar found it funny either. The gringo finishes his piss-warm Chango and hightails it because, best he could tell, this shadowy killer was headed their way. In reality, the gringo is a friend of the mariachi and reports to him that, based on the bar folk’s reactions, Bucho is close. Armed with that knowledge and his guitar case full of guns, el Mariachi rains hell down upon the thugs of Santa Cecilia to flush Bucho out of hiding.
Desperado is a sequel to writer-director-producer Robert Rodriguez’s independent film, El mariachi, and his debut feature film. The plot of Desperado is somewhat more involved than the synopsis above. There is a budding love story between the mariachi and the lovely Carolina, Bucho contending with the comical incompetence of his men, and a skulking assassin sent by the Colombians to spy on Bucho’s operations. By the by, that assassin is played by Danny Fuckin’ Trejo, who is actually the most recognizable biggest, baddest Mexican around!
Desperado also features brief appearances by Quentin Tarantino, Cheech Marin, and the indie film’s original mariachi, Carlos Gallardo. You don’t watch Desperado for the cast (save Salma), you queue up Desperado for the hail of gunfire, the showers of blood, and the tried-and-true tale of vengeance Rodriguez spins. The most impressive aspect to Desperado is Rodriguez’s excellent use of tension. You go into it expecting shootouts and explosions, stuntmen soaked in fake blood, and a double handful of continuity errors common to shoot ‘em ups, and while that’s all there, it’s evident that even in his debut feature Rodriguez had a knack for setting the appropriate mood to make the exaggerated action not only palatable, but delectable.
The way Banderas literally slings bullets at the bad guys in the bar shoot-out in Santa Cecilia is ridiculous. The sheer amount of guns and ammo he carries in that guitar case would make it impossible to carry. Does this matter? No, because el Mariachi is meant to be a myth, a larger-than-life ass kicker and thanks to its style, timing, sex appeal and balance of humor and action, Desperado is a film that kicks ass. How else could it have made Kai’s Top 5 Movies: Robert Rodriguez?