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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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El Mariachi: Robert Rodriguez’s bloody debut

The Queens Theatre will be showing El Mariachi, directed by Robert Rodriguez, on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
Photo by Creative Commons

The Queen’s Theatre will be showing El Mariachi, directed by Robert Rodriguez, on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.

Robert Rodriguez is arguably one of the most well known action, thriller and horror directors of this generation of filmmakers. However, he wasn’t always making high budget Hollywood films. Rodriguez’s distinguished career has a humble beginning with the low budget film, “El Mariachi.” The film will be playing at the Queen Theatre in Bryan on Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
“El Mariachi” tells the story of an aspiring mariachi (who is only referred to as El Mariachi), as he travels to the border town of Acuna, Mexico to pursue his dream of music. He walks into town with nothing except his black guitar case. At the same time, a ruthless criminal named Azul, also carrying a black guitar case, breaks out of jail and heads into town to seek revenge on the drug lord, Moco, who put him in jail in the first place. When Moco sends his men to hunt down and kill Azul, they confuse El Mariachi for Azul, and the musician must must fight his way out of the city so he can continue his dream.
Even at the brief runtime of 82 minutes, “El Mariachi” is packed with nonstop actions scenes. Although this was Rodriguez’s first film, his distinct action style is present throughout. The camera seems to float through these intense shootout scenes with ease, not stopping for too long on any of the action before moving to the next scene. Even with the lack of a Hollywood production budget, Rodriguez’s style really stands out.
With that being said, the film looks exactly like what it cost to make it. Rodriguez famously shot this film for about $7,000 that he earned through taking part in medical experiments in Austin. He saved enough to buy some equipment, recruited some of his friends to make and star in the film, and drove to Acuna. So don’t expect the same polish of his later films such as “From Dusk till Dawn,” “Planet Terror” or “Machete.” “El Mariachi” looks and feels like a passion project of a college student, which is exactly what it is.
Carlos Gallardo plays a convincing lead in this film. Gallardo has been a close friend of Rodriguez since they attended University of Texas together. Gallardo had no acting experience before the film, and this shows at times. However, Rodriguez did what many low budget filmmakers do when they are shooting with amateurs: create a shoestring thin script that allows them to get by with as little dialogue as possible. Though Gallardo’s lack of acting experience is noticeable, it’s quickly forgotten with the progression of the action-filled plot.
“El Mariachi” was the film that kicked off Rodriguez’s career and granted him the creative freedom to go on to make classics of genre film. The film debuted at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival and even won the audience award that year. Rodriguez had intended his film for Mexican home video distribution, but the success at Sundance caught the eyes of Columbia Pictures who distributed the film to American theatres. This allowed the film to become the lowest budget film to ever gross over a million dollars at the box office.
Despite its low budget production value, “El Mariachi” is certainly worth the watch. Look past the errors that come along with low budget filmmaking and enjoy the origins of one of the most prominent action/horror filmmakers of our generation.

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