By: Akram Shaban
This review may contain spoilers!
Desperado is the second installment of Robert Rodriguez’ action packed Mexico Trilogy. A man known as El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) seeks retribution after the love of his life was killed by Moco (a drug lord who played a major role in the first movie). Enlisting the help of his American friend (played by Buscemi), he learns that the man responsible for his wife’s death is a drug lord named Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida).On his journey to locate and kill Bucho, he meets Carolina (Selma Hayek) with whom he falls in love. The plot is pretty generic and it’s the action sequences, witty dialogue, and storytelling, along with the production value which makes Desperado so great.
The movie begins with the American entering a bar in Mexico in a manner which immediately gravitates attention onto him. He sits down and asks for a beer. The cleverness and wittiness of the movie became apparent as soon as Buscemi opens his mouth. He explains that he had previously visited another bar where he had a terrible experience. He exclaims that the people there were lowlifes who, unlike the ones currently surrounding him, had no class. He makes sure to clarify that he speaks of the other bar, and not this one. Now one might think that he makes the clarification in order to appease hostility that he might receive due to misunderstanding, but I say he does more. I say he’s vague on purpose. In addition to complementing the bar, he also praises the beer, claiming it as the best he’d ever had. But we find out later that everyone finds the beer disgusting, likening it to the taste of urine. So why would Buscemi speak so highly of such a bad tasting beer? It’s because of juxtaposition. He aligns his praise of the beer with his praise of the bar and the “high class” people inside. It’s safe to assume that he’s lying about liking the beer, but the fact that he’s associating the “piss tasting” beverage with the rest of the bar indicates that his compliments are not only not genuine but insults. This is further supported by his admission that the other bar’s beer is similar, but not as good. This means that the other bar was bad, contained lowlives, and equally as vile beer. Reinforcing this claim is the manner in which he describes the lowlives of the other bar. He proceeds by saying, vaguely, “and this bar,” pausing and turning his head around and continuing with a raised voice “is full of real lowlifes.” His tone indicates that he wanted them to hear the “lowlifes” bit. And like his other vague comments about “a bar” being terrible, he follows up with a clarification that he’s speaking of the other bar. After planting the seed of mockery in their heads, it doesn’t matter much that he clarifies himself other than to avoid violence. Both bars are equally bad, and he cleverly got away with insulting them.
The rest of the movie is a series of action-packed bar battles, street battles, and even one at a bookstore. All have one thing in common, a guitar case containing all sorts of guns and grenades that made El Mariachi a living legend. The best, in my opinion, is the bookstore scene. It was the most violent scene, but not in the conventional way. Bucho had figured out that El Mariachi was hiding out at a bookstore which he uses for drug trades by bribing the owner, Carolina. Bucho’s Men sneak to the top bedroom floor where they presume El Mariachi and Carolina were sleeping. Carolina is sitting on the bed, back faced to the wall door, eyes closed and playing the guitar while singing. She’s clearly unaware of the men sneaking outside. Nor is she aware that El Mariachi is awake and senses the men. As the men approach from the left side (behind a curtained window), he grabs a gun and lifts it past Carolina’s closed eyes and aims. Then he senses other men coming from the right side, prompting him to lift another gun past Carolina’s head. As the men move closer to the door behind Carolina, El Mariachi continues to point at them, moving his arms in accordance with their movement. But as they arrived at the door, he found himself pointing both guns at Carolina, who’s still unaware of what’s going on. Finally the tension breaks, Mariachi pushes Carolina out of the way, and violence ensues. It’s a brilliant scene putting together two contrasting things, emphasizing the beauty and peacefulness of Carolina’s singing, in light of the very thing that will destroy it, not to eliminate it, but to save it.
A beautiful film. Grade of A.