El Mariachi Trilogy

El Mariachi (1992)
Desperado (1995)
Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003)

"The most drop-dead gorgeous woman you'll ever see."

That's how they describe Salma Hayek (or rather, Salma Hayek's character) in Once Upon a Time in Mexico—and it's difficult to argue.

I've just watched the three movies: El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico.  Together they form a fairly loose trilogy that follows the adventures of an itinerant musician -- the role taken first by Carlos Gallardo, and then Antonio Banderas.

The first movie was made by Robert Rodriguez on a budget of approximately $3.50 and a slice of pizza. All things considered, it actually holds up remarkably well, and does a fine job of telling its tale of mistaken identity, a drug war, and the wandering Mariachi who gets caught in the middle.

The second movie, Desperado, casts Antonio Banderas in the role of the Mariachi—although it was good to see the original actor, Carlos Gallardo, as one of his, uh, "band members". This is part sequel, part remake—and has some extremely cool action sequences in it, making full use of both Antonio's smouldering intensity and Salma's gorgeous looks. This time around, El Mariachi is working his way up the food chain, taking out the bosses (and their bosses) of the guy who took away his livelihood and killed his girl at the end of the first movie. (And they did a very nice re-shoot of that scene with Antonio in the role!) All in all, Desperado is one of my favourite films.

The third movie, sadly, just doesn't measure up. It has a great cast (Antonio and Salma are rejoined by the likes of Danny Trejo and Cheech Marin, both playing roles that seem vaguely related, but not, to their Desperado characters. Added to the cast we have Johnny Depp, Willem Dafoe, Eva Mendes, Ruben Blades, and Mickey Rourke) and some excellent sequences—but somehow it completely fails to recapture the total cool which permeates Desperado. Perhaps it's too big, its many story threads too tangled, or perhaps it was just the fact that Salma's character is relegated to flashback status for the purposes of giving El Mariachi a totally unnecessary revenge motivation on top of everything else. Or perhaps—specific pet peeve of mine—it was the way they retconned the back story of El Mariachi and Carolina, not to mention the details they changed too. It all felt a little too forced to be enjoyable; perhaps it would work better if I wasn't such a big fan of Desperado?

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