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.