Roulette Reel: El Mariachi

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I am a huge lover of film, but like many others I get stuck in the rut of watching within my comfort zone. Suffice to say, El Mariachi took me pretty far out of my comfort zone.

Going in blind was a real treat. All the title made me think of was tequila and sombreros and I had pretty much no idea what I was letting myself in for. Having popped on IMDB after, I am more than a little ashamed I hadn’t heard of it as it’s actually the first film the great Robert Rodriguez produced.

When the film opened, firstly I realised that I’d forgot to put subtitles on, which isn’t a good start for a film that’s entirely in Spanish. Oops. When the film opened I got the impression I was going to be watching some sort of action flick with gangsters and lots of guns. The characters seemed interesting enough, Moco and Azul, with their history and immediate sense of cartoon-esque style – one dressed in black and the other in white. After our first lot of shooting for the next hour and a bit, the opening credits began to roll and I sat back preparing for some action goodness.

That was when the film changed and we are introduced to our protagonist “El Mariachi” who we learn through a monologue is one of those wandering musician types, seeking to develop his Mariachi musical heritage. He is a very relatable and familiar sort of character. The lonely boy chasing his dream. There is also a tortoise and a free coconut at this point.

“Free coconut. I was beginning to like this city.”

With the easy breezy humour and overtly casual attitude of this guy, I was beginning to like this film! Of course, as with a lot of Robert Rodriguez films, the nice easy scenes are the perfect counterpoints to the thrilling, gun blazing action that takes up most of the film. We are dragged into the gun fights and gang wars when our hero is mistaken for Azul and finds himself as the target of a gang. There is also a really beautiful woman. She’s my kind of lady, Hispanic, has a penchant for red and threatens to castrate a guy not long after knowing him (what? I’m a romantic).

I do feel this film is a very interesting example of film making. The story is told wonderfully to make El Mariachi kind of awkward but very lovable. I really, really enjoyed how it was shot, although I’m willing to accept it’s probably rather Marmite in you either love it or hate it. The periodic use of hand camera gave it a rough edgy and gritty feel; the use of slow motion, a dream like, probably-shouldn’t-have-smoked-that quality and the use of close ups a sense of intensity. For me, that added a sense of mastery to the production of it but I do think it is something that could get very annoying if you weren’t a fan.

I’ll admit, as much as it was a fun film, there was a lot to be said for the lack of plausibility. These terrifying gangsters apparently have the shooting skills of stormtroopers. With the exception of Azul, Moco and for some reason our shy and awkward protagonist who has probably never held a gun before in his life. You really do have to let of your common sense when watching this or the plot holes will just gnaw at you until you hate it, hate life, hate every idiot that tried to put a story together without a back bone.

I felt throughout that the film was like an 80’s pop video and an action 80’s film had a cozy weekend full of drugs and fucking in Mexico and this film kind of slipped out as a result. I think that description does justice to how I feel about it, it’s neither a compliment or an insult and yet both a compliment and an insult at the same time. Equally, I’m really not sure how I felt about it. I think I liked enough and disliked enough to feel incredibly neutral about the experience.

There were times I laughed, times I  gasped, times I clung to the edge of my seat and to be honest, times I was a little bored.

If you like films with guns and don’t mind losing story quality for a little bit of fun then you will probably really enjoy this film. Personally? I’m glad I watched it. It was ok.

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