Almost certainly, at $7,000, the cheapest film ever released by a major Hollywood studio, Columbia's pickup El Mariachi is a fresh, resourceful first feature by 24-year-old Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Spanish lingo crime meller has a verve and cheekiness that's partly a smart wedding of such influences as Sergio Leone, George Miller and south-of-the-border noir.

Almost certainly, at $7,000, the cheapest film ever released by a major Hollywood studio, Columbia’s pickup El Mariachi is a fresh, resourceful first feature by 24-year-old Austin filmmaker Robert Rodriguez. Spanish lingo crime meller has a verve and cheekiness that’s partly a smart wedding of such influences as Sergio Leone, George Miller and south-of-the-border noir.

Lensed in two weeks in the Mexican border town of Acuna, the pic can edify and inspire aspiring filmmakers who complain about lack of coin. Even though he shot with a hand-held 16mm camera and non-synch sound, Rodriguez has put up a perfectly serviceable picture up on the screen (Col paid for the 35mm blowup and Dolby sound add-on).

Simple tale is that of a lone stranger in town who stirs up trouble, although in this case the newcomer is a young, hapless mariachi singer looking for a gig. Also in town is a revenge-crazed drug dealer named Azul at war with his ex-partner Moco. Like El Mariachi, Azul wears black and carries a guitar case, although one loaded with heavy weaponry rather than a stringed instrument.

Cat-and-mouse plotting sees the earnest El Mariachi chased around town by Moco’s henchmen, who themselves are being systematically being mowed down by Azul. All El Mariachi wants is a job, which leads him to the cantina of the foxy Domino (Consuelo Gomez).

Given pic’s relative levity, amount of carnage at the climax comes as something of a surprise, and fade-out feels uncomfortably close to a set-up for a sequel. Carlos Gallardo, who also co-wrote and co-produced, makes for an affable Mariachi.

El Mariachi

Production

Los Hooligans. Director Robert Rodriguez; Producer Robert Rodriguez, Carlos Gallardo; Screenplay Robert Rodriguez, Carlos Gallardo; Camera Robert Rodriguez; Editor Robert Rodriguez

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1992. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Carlos Gallardo Consuelo Gomez Reinol Martinez Peter Marquardt Jaime De Hoyos Ramiro Gomez
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