Movie Review: Desperado

Posted: April 7, 2011 in Movie Review, Reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

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Desperado (1995/ Columbia Pictures/ Dir. Robert Rodriguez)

This is an interesting mixture of both varieties of movie that were popular during the mid nineties. Desperado straddles the line between two-fisted action and independent/foreign art house style films. I’m not joking about that second part either, there are a lot of shots and ideas that are far more familiar to the art house scene rather than the action movie of the time. In many ways it feels like it has more in common with the art house, particularly since there was a flavor for low-budget Latin movies at the time this came out. This movie was also like another kind of import, that being the Hong Kong Heroic bloodshed, however as this connection is more obvious I won’t dwell on it.


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Back when Salma was young and hot. Unlike now, when she’s just hot and hot.

Now a lot of people have noted a connection to the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60s and 70s, but I feel the connection is really only in the music and the setting. A lot of Spaghetti Westerns took place in Mexico because Spain looks enough like it, and there was a lot of guitar music, but beyond that this movie doesn’t share much with that aesthetic. Desperado is too introspective, and the violence is extended and exciting rather than a few explosive punctuations. I think people looked at the surface and just saw Rodriguez as Sergio Leoni’s heir because of the surface similarities, when really he’s much more like John Woo’s Latino counterpart. The action sequences are paced like music, they contain a lot of quick cut editing flying stuntmen and an unflinching willingness to use squibs and blood. I’m not saying there is no connection to the Spaghetti Western, I’m just saying there are other connections that I think are more closely related. It seems that the Hong Kong style has fallen out of favor and now everyone is looking either to Film Noir or the Italian Western as an influence. Both those are in here though, along with things like the Lone Wolf and Cub movies, which also clearly have an influence.

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He is displeased with the way things are going.

One thing I noticed, watching it this time, is that this strangely feels like the third or fourth El Mariachi movie, rather than the second. The story line mentions how Bucho is the last name on El’s list, and that Steve Buscemi’s character (cleverly called Buscemi in the credits) mentions that this whole thing has to end soon. It gives me a very strong feeling that we’ve missed an entire movie, or maybe a couple of movies. It makes me wonder what other adventures these two had, and if the other movies were as good as this one. I find this interesting because as a fan of foreign movies, I’ve ended up watching lots of sequels that I didn’t know were sequels until later, and thus have had to deal with missing sections. Interestingly enough, Rodriguez has mentioned that he envisioned another movie between this and its sequel, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, so there’s that. All in all, it really feels like there is much more to this movie, which gives it that foreign flare I was talking about. A lot of art house movies tend to add unexplained details that aren’t important to the story, but are there to add a feeling of realism to the characters. That’s one of the places where this movie has the feeling of a foreign or art house movie.

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Artsy Shot #243

I haven’t mentioned the story yet, which is sort of basic. It’s a man looking for revenge against the people who killed the woman he loved and ruined his life. In the last movie, and in a recap in this movie, the baddies shot him through the left had and destroyed his ability to play guitar. This actually leads to a few scenes of him trying to play guitar and failing because the wound to his left hand makes it hard to form a cord. These are scenes that carry a bit more introspection than you normally got in these days. Also, El isn’t as cool, as calm, or nearly as collected at the grim badasses we get in action movies. He gets frustrated, he gets angry and shouts about things instead of internalizing everything like a lot of other characters do. In that respect, he’s a lot like Indiana Jones, showing off a vulnerability that is rarely seen in action movies. Mind you, everyone in the movie is like this, not just the main character. It’s full of people who screw things up, get frustrated about it, and throw minor tantrums. There isn’t anyone, besides perhaps Danny Trejo who is really calm and cool.

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Did we really need to see that shooting a gun causes his “O Face” here?

Now let’s talk action, there is some really good action in here. A lot of gunplay, although most of it is fairly over the top, and even a fairly hot love scene between our two good looking leads. The only problem is, if you only came for the action, you might be slightly annoyed at some of the slower scenes and confused by the artsy editing. If you came thinking it was another interesting independent film about the human condition, you might be annoyed to find the story a little simplistic and so full of bloodshed. However, if you came for an action movie that has a little bit more going on than the average action flick, this probably is the movie for you. In some ways, this is a perfect movie. Maybe not in all ways, maybe not when compared to all the movies I’ve ever seen, but in its own way it is. It’s a perfect, small budget action movie anyway. It’s not trying to be something it’s not, and it’s good for being what it is. You can get this and the first movie on Blu-ray or you can buy it as a regular DVD if you like. I think this one is worth your effort to try and see, and maybe watch again with a different set of eyes.

Official Score:
72 Degrees on the Graffiti Bridge Scale.

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Probably a metaphor or something.

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