“Desperado,” the sequel to Rodriguez's 1992 hit, “El Mariachi,” is an actioner boasting the giddy, gross-out cartoonish quality of a Hong Kong actioner, though without the elegance or grace of that admired cinema.
The picture's only edge is based on the then up-and-coming Spaniard star Antonio Banderas (who began his career in Almodovar's campy comedies), who brought an easy and abundant sex appeal to the avenger's role, proving that an action hero can be more than a beefcake in the mold of Sylvester Stallone.
In the “new” story, the mariachi plunges into the border underworld while pursuing an infamous Mexican drug lord, Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida). In a bloody showdown, with the help of his white friend (Steve Buscemi) and a beautiful bookstore owner (Selma Hayek), he takes on Bucho's army of desperados.
Rodriguez has said that his goal was to make a new kind of movie, one that adds “humor, a strong female character, and a clean-cut good guy who is Mexican” to the action mix. Most of all, he wanted to challenge the Hollywood clich that “Mexicans are always the bad guys in movies.”
Having grown up wanting to be Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker, Rodriguez felt it was time to provide new role models for Mexican-Americans. Indeed, Selma Hayek became the first Mexican actress to play a female lead in a Hollywood movie since Dolores Del Rio, back in the 1930s. (So much for cultural diversity and progress).
“Desperado” is basically a slicker, more expensive version of “El Mariachi”–except that what was promising at $7,000 looks tiresome at a $7 million price tag.
Rodriguez again shows technical facility for comic action and cartoonish violence. More than 8,000 pounds of ammunition, thousands of gallons of blood, and various oversized weapons were expended during the shoot to stage the huge explosions and show people getting sliced and diced in various ways. It's as if the director were telling the audience, “Here's yet another way to shoot a bad guy or to blow the bridge.”