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Robert Rodriguez
Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Steve Buscemi
Writing Credits:
Robert Rodriguez

He came back to settle the score.

Antonio Banderas, Joaquim De Almeida, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin and Quentin Tarantino star in this stylish shoot-'em-up described as a south-of-the-border Pulp Fiction.

Director Robert Rodriguez follows up his legendary debut film, El Mariachi, with this sexy sequel about a mysterious guitar player (Banderas) search for vengeance against the men who murdered his girlfriend.

Box Office:
$7.000 million.
Domestic Gross
$25.625 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD 5.1
French DTS-HD 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $19.95
Release Date: 1/4/2011

Available Only as El Mariachi/Desperado Two-Pack

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Rodriguez
• “The El Mariachi/Desperado Cutting Room”
• “10 More Minutes with Robert Rodriguez: Anatomy of a Shootout” Featurette
• Music Videos


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Desperado [Blu-Ray] (1995)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 24, 2010)

While El Mariachi didn’t make director Robert Rodriguez a household name, it did act as a $7000 calling card. The film enabled him to make bigger projects, so what did he choose? Desperado, an odd form of sequel to El Mariachi.

(Note that to cover this flick’s plot, I’ll inevitably provide some spoilers about El Mariachi. If you don’t want to know these, just skip to the first word I present in bold type; that’s where I’ll open my impressions of the film without much discussion of story.)

At the film’s start, a dude named Buscemi (Steve Buscemi) enters a Mexican bar and tells the patrons a vivid tale of El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas). He makes the latter out to be a vengeful force of mythic proportions, mostly to try to sweat some information out of them. Mariachi seeks clues to the whereabouts of Bucho (Joaquim de Alameida), one of those responsible for the death of Domino (Consuelo Gomez) in the first flick. Apparently Bucho is the end of this line of revenge; Mariachi’s already knocked off the others. (Actually, if you saw the original movie, it seems clear he nailed everyone involved in Domino’s death then, but we’ll grant some creative license here.)

Essentially the rest of the movie is one big cat and mouse gunfight. Mariachi comes to the bar to figure out where to find Bucho, and a big battle ensues. Soon he meets a local bookseller named Carolina (Salma Hayek) on the street. He saves her life, so she cares for him after he gets shot. Inevitably, romance develops. When Bucho finds out that Mariachi’s after him, he sets up his defenses, and we also discover the baddie’s connection to our female lead.

Will this all end with a lot of bullets? Duh! To call the plot of Desperado a) threadbare and b) predictable would probably overstate the flick’s complexity. But I don’t regard an easy-to-read story as necessarily a weakness. After all, El Mariachi was pretty predictable, but that didn’t keep it from becoming sensational nonetheless.

Unfortunately, this flack lacks its predecessor’s hunger and energy. We notice Rodriguez’s increased budget for Desperado literally as the film opens. Gone are the cheap sets, no-name actors and music. Instead, we find a lavishly created bar along with Steve Buscemi and Cheech Marin, and we hear a tune from Dire Straits play in the background. Cripes – I’ll bet the rights to that one song cost more than all of El Mariachi!

I’m not one of these folks who always thinks the cheap “indie” version of a flick is the best one. After all, I’ll take Terminator 2 over Terminator any day of the week.

However, in this case, the sequel fails to live up to the original. Rodriguez had nothing to lose when he made Mariachi, but here he needed to fret over his career. With Mariachi he got his foot in the door; Desperado was meant to let the rest of him enter.

This means that Rodriguez often suffers from “tries too hard” syndrome during Desperado. It feels like every scene is supposed to dazzle and overwhelm us, and he doesn’t let matters evolve naturally. No, it’s not like Rodriguez screams “look at me – I have money now!” and the director remains miserly in his filmmaking ways to this day. But his ambition to overwhelm us overwhelms him and makes Desperado unnecessarily showy much of the time.

Rodriguez also seems to hop on a bandwagon with a distinct Pulp Fiction vibe. In addition to the casting of Quentin Tarantino in a small role, we see this influence via the action, pacing, editing, and music. Watch that opening scene with Buscemi and tell me it doesn’t feel like something directed by Tarantino. Heck, Quentin’s own scene seems like Tarantino might have even written it himself!

Ultimately, Desperado provides some good action set pieces and entertainment, and if one doesn’t directly compare it to El Mariachi, it probably works better. Unfortunately, it lacks its predecessor’s casual self-assurance. It feels more over the top and like an attempt to impress us. Occasionally it does so, but I still prefer the “nothing to lose” charm of El Mariachi.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Desperado appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Mostly the film looked solid.

Sharpness appeared good. A few slightly soft shots materialized, but these remained minor. The majority of the movie displayed positive delineation and definition. No issues with jaggies or moiré effects occurred, and edge haloes were absent. Print flaws also failed to appear, as the movie remained clean.

Colors provided a high point for this film. The movie demonstrated a rich palette that consistently seemed vivid and dynamic. The hues were tight and full and never suffered from any bleeding, noise or other issues. Black levels were deep and dense, and low-light shots looked appropriately opaque without any concerns connected to excessive darkness. Lose the occasional soft shots and this would be an “A”-level presentation. As is, it gave us a fine “B+” image.

Director Robert Rodriguez clearly enjoyed the benefits of his increased budget when it came time to mix the movie, and Desperado’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 showed what he could do with a little money. The soundfield seemed broad and lively. Music demonstrated solid stereo spread, as the score split nicely into the sides and blended cleanly.

Effects really made good use of the various channels. All five speakers got a good workout during both loud and subtle sequences. For example, in an early dream sequence, the sound of one man clapping moved neatly all around the room. Of course, the gunfights came to life very well, as shots flew all around the spectrum. The surrounds weren’t equal partners, but they got a lot of use in this vivid and engrossing track.

The quality of the audio seemed positive as well. Dialogue always came across as natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was full and warm, and the track demonstrated good low-end response when necessary. The effects kicked the mix into higher gear and sounded simply terrific. The components were tight and concise, and they showed nice range. Bass response was deep and firm throughout the film. I couldn’t find much to complain about during this solid soundtrack.

How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to the 2003 DVD? Both showed improvements, though mostly in the visual range. The Blu-ray was cleaner, tighter and more dynamic; it offered a good step up in picture quality.

The audio of the two discs seemed more similar. The Blu-ray’s lossless mix was a little more vibrant, but both sounded good, so don’t expect revelations here.

Most of the DVD’s extras repeat here. We start with that release’s audio commentary from director Robert Rodriguez. A running, screen-specific piece, the track doesn’t appear as strong as those for Spy Kids 2 or El Mariachi, but Rodriguez nevertheless gives us an above-average discussion of his work.

Whereas the El Mariachi track focused mainly on the challenges of shooting on an extremely low budget, Rodriguez had 1000 times more money for Desperado, so that element takes a less prominent role. Nonetheless, since $7 million remained pretty low budget in 1995, the director relates some of the ways he made his movie look more expensive and gives us tips in that department. He also goes over creative and casting elements and relates fun anecdotes from the set.

Unlike his Spy Kids 2 and El Mariachi tracks, however, Rodriguez doesn’t maintain a consistently chatty pace. He actually falls silent for brief periods on a few occasions, and a little more than halfway through the movie, he indicates that he’s run out of notes! Rodriguez ably improvises, though, and he makes sure we learn more about the movie. Of the director’s solo tracks, this one’s the least compelling, but that still makes it better than most others, and it gives us a fair amount of good information about the flick.

A “sequel” to the El Mariachi disc’s “Ten-Minute Film School”, Ten More Minutes: Anatomy of a Shootout actually lasts 10 minutes and 28 seconds. This program mostly focuses on one of the bar shootouts, but it also includes a little material about other sequences. Rodriguez’s use of “video storyboards” dominates the piece, as he shows us how he uses these to preplan shots. It’s not as good as the original “Film School”, but it’s generally an illuminating glimpse at the director’s methods.

For an interactive feature, we find The El Mariachi/Desperado Cutting Room. This allows you to create your own edits for some parts of the film. Alas, it requires an external storage capability that my player lacks, but it sounds like fun. It certainly appears to offer more power than the average limited editing feature found on some DVDs.

Two music videos appear. We find clips for “Morena De Mi Corazon” by Los Lobos with Antonio Banderas and “Back to the House That Love Built” by Tito and Tarantula. “Morena” is a peppy little Mexican ditty, but the video is pretty dull lip-synch/movie clip material. The “House” video isn’t any more interesting, and the song itself is forgettable.

Does the Blu-ray lose extras from the DVD? Yup – it drops a mix of trailers for Desperado and other films.

With 1000 times the budget of El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez created a sequel that didn’t match up to the original. Desperado has its moments, but overall it feels forced and like everyone involved tried too hard to impress us. The Blu-ray presents very good picture and sound plus a decent set of supplements. Action fans will probably find this solid Blu-ray to merit a look – and it’s a good step up in quality over the DVD - but I definitely prefer El Mariachi and think it’s the more valuable of the two flicks.

Note that you can only purchase Desperado as part of a two-pack that pairs it with El Mariachi. Both appear on the same Blu-ray Disc. With a list price of about $20, this is a good deal.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of DESPERADO

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