(Spanish dialogue)After his assorted co-producing, co-writing and acting stints on Roberto Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” and “Desperado,” Carlos Gallardo went for full multi-hyphenate status in his feature directorial debut with this escapist actioner. Somewhat silly, routine low-budget effort may lack the flamboyance of Rodriguez’s pictures, but it’s fast-paced and decently crafted enough to entertain Spanish-lingo genre auds. A follow-up, “Bravo,” is already making ancillary rounds. Gallardo plays a nameless stranger who arrives in a dirt-bag town with seemingly no purpose, but a whole lot of deadly imperturbability. He soon builds up casualties among local thugs, earning the ire of crime boss Camaro (Oscar Castaneda). He also forges alliances with a comic old man; an apparent rival crime boss, Manco (Miguel Gurza); and latter’s conveniently gorgeous daughter (Alejandra Prado). Turns out our protag is an undercover Mexican intelligence agent investigating Camaro’s possible ties to a recent presidential candidate’s assassination. Manco also has a secret identity — he’s the dead politico’s brother, and is on the same hunt. Subsequent goings-on in this corrupted village lean heavily toward sudden shoot-’em-ups and other violent eruptions, with the black-hatted, steel-jawed, laconic agent inevitably leaving corpses behind. Climactic hero-villain standoff provides no surprises. Despite the occasional appearance of laptops and automobiles, pic aims to inhabit traditional spaghetti Western terrain, from musical scoring to iconic slow-mo shots to the dusty, sepia-toned color scheme. The women here — including two slinky homicidal maniacs in Camaro’s camp — are invariably clad in the tightest black spandex or minidresses. Perfs are acceptable within archetype bounds, with Gallardo giving himself plenty of squinting, emotionless, Leone-style close-ups. Everything here adheres to strict formula, but manages to keep its face reasonably straight even as action grows more and more ludicrous. Tech package is pretty decent on a reported $ 11,000 budget — of course, “El Mariachi” cost $ 7,000 (prior to its post-production major-studio polish, that is), but that’s inflation for you.
A Kingsize Entertainment presentation. Produced by Carlos Gallardo. Executive producers, Luis Chapital, Mark Roberts, Lorena David, Michael Lawrence. Co-producer, Ricardo Padilla. Directed, written by Carlos Gallardo.
Camera (color), Ricardo Padilla; editor , Richard Alarcon; music, Michael Gonzales; art directors, Gabriella Pena, Marie Claire Menoux; set designers, Claudia Rosas, Fernando Delgado; sound, Verna Mandel; sound designer, Abel Fiores; associate producer, Carmen M. De Gallardo; assistant director, Oscar Gonzales Gutierrez; casting, Luis Chapital. Reviewed on videocassette, San Francisco, Sept. 21, 1998. (In Festival Cine Latino.) Running time: 79 MIN.
Agent ..... Carlos Gallardo Marumi ..... Alejandra Prado Manco ..... Miguel Gurza Camaro ..... Oscar Castaneda Sancho ..... Manuel Vela Old Man ..... Paul Palomir Blondie ..... Desiree Rios Morena ..... Claudine Sosa