Monday, September 22, 2014

Ten Statements About....DESPERADO (1995) of the hottest women in the world and Antonio
Bandares walking away from an explosion.  Nothing more
to say here, really..
"Easier to pull a trigger than play a guitar.  Easier to destroy than to create."

1) Even moreso than Sam Raimi and Evil Dead 2, Robert Rodriguez structures this film so that it can be both a sequel and a remake.  We do get flashbacks and dialogue callbacks to El Mariachi, but there are new elements that make it feel like its own movie.  Plus the presence of Carlos Gallardo in a very flashy cameo toward the end (that does not in any way contradict his character in the previous film) can make the argument that this is a parallel film in the same universe a valid one.

2) Watching this after watching Rodriguez’s later films in the same tradition like the Machete films, it strikes me that he has a much better balance of the outrageous and comedic elements here.  The humor never gets in the way of his intention to make a modern day spaghetti western reset in Chicano dress.  And speaking of humor....

3) good as Antonio Banderas is, as good as Salma Hayek is, the true MVP of this film is Joaquim de Almieda.  Almieda’s Bucho has the unenviable task of being both a credible bad guy while also carrying the bulk of the humor, and he does so with grace and aplomb.  This film would have fallen apart if Almieda didn’t handle both aspects of Bucho well.

4) You know, the sexiest moment in the film is not the sweaty love scene of Banderas and Hayek rolling about naked (and don’t get me wrong...naked Salma Hayek is always a good thing), but the bookends to that scene.  The brief moment of Hayek’s Carolina helping Banderas play guitar, and the equally brief moment of her singing with eyes closed as Banderas prepares to defend himself are so easy in their sensuality that no amount of nudity can match it.
Is there anything more Rodriguez than a gorgeous Chicano
woman shooting a gun?

5) You wanna know how you can get your audience to accept something as insane and out there as a guitar case rocket launcher, Robert Rodriguez?  You pepper your movie with smaller examples of nuttiness so that when the insane moment shows up the audience is ready for it.

6) There are some moments in here that remind you that Rodriguez had a real painterly eye for compositions before he fell down the ‘all exploitation all the time’ rabbit hole...the moment where Banderas is stumbling down an alleyway, leaving brilliant smears of blood on the white adobe wall, is both horrifying and beautiful at the same time.

7) And I do respect how Rodriguez at this point in his career is not only aware of how ludicrous his action can be, he comments on it.  Just take a look at the parallel scenes from the first and second act of this film--first we get Steve Buscemi narrating an aggrandized, over the top gun battle, then we get Quentin Tarantino (why is it only Rodriguez can get tolerable performances out of QT?) telling a piss joke prior to an over the top gun fight that is awkward and obviously exhausting for all involved.  It’s an effective bit of metacommentary on his own style.
Yep...a mariachi with a rocket launcher guitar case...nothing
more to say here.

8) I do like the fact that this film is very much about grey areas, which is why it is at its core a spaghetti western (a burrito western?).  When not only one of the supporting characters, but the female lead are cooperating with Bucho, it changes our point of view on our hero’s quest.

9)  I really wish Steve Buscemi’s American had been given a larger role, simply because he provides the closest thing we get to a conscience for our POV character that none of the other characters can be because of their cooperation with Bucho.

10) I have to respect this film for deciding what it wants and then working out a way to logically make it happen.  Just look at how Rodriguez makes it so that he has the shot of Hayek and Banderas walking away from an explosion without it looking stupid, unlikely or cheesy.

Overall...a very good example of how you can feed your grindhouse belly without the story flying off thoroughly into fantasy land, bouyed by some excellent performances.