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Film / Desperado

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He came back to settle the score with someone. Anyone. EVERYONE.

"So, I'm sitting there...and in walks the biggest Mexican I have ever seen. Big as shit. Just walks right in like he owns the place. Now, nobody knew quite what to make of him, or quite what to think. There he was and in he walked. He was dark, too. I don't mean dark-skinned. No, this was different. It was as if he was always walking in a shadow. I mean every step he took towards the light, just when you thought his face was about to be wasn't. It was as if the lights...dimmed...just for him."
Buscemi, about El Mariachi

Desperado (1995), a.k.a. Pistolero in Spanish, is an action thriller film starring Antonio Banderas. It is the second movie in Robert Rodriguez's Mexico or Mariachi Trilogy , following El Mariachi and followed by Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Has the interesting distinction of being one of very few sequels to be in an entirely different language from the first movie.

Our protagonist, known only as "El Mariachi," has lost his love and put down her killer. Ever since losing her, however, he has changed. No longer the innocent who just wanted to play his guitar and get by, he has made a transformation into a hard, vengeance-driven gunslinger who has made the cartel that Moco worked for his enemy; and is seeking out the cartel's boss, who goes by the name of Bucho, so that he can finish the job. Unfortunately for El Mariachi, he'll have to use every gun in his guitar case against Mooks in seedy bars, thugs after his life, a knife throwing assassin, to do it. And all of this while keeping Carolina (Salma Hayek), his new love interest, friend and informant, and random bystanders alive.

Not to be confused with Desperados or the Eagles album Desperado and its title track.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: As El Mariachi walks into town, we have a shot of a horse-drawn taxi trotting down the street ahead of a modern tractor-trailer.
  • Arm Cannon: El Mariachi has cut-down semi-automatic pistols hidden in his sleeves, spring-loaded to jump into his hands.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The Oro Verde and Tarasco bars, both of which were hangouts for members of Bucho's gang, and both of which get a rather violent housecleaning by El Mariachi.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Quentin Tarantino and an unnamed Mexican man walk into a bar and hand the bartender their cards, which are used to check out their references prior to being admitted to the back for a pick-up job. After Quentin gives a punchline to a joke with a long setup, the guy on the phone who calls regarding the cards makes a hand gesture that one of the two men present isn't known to the person on the other end of the phone. The unnamed Mexican gets killed by the bartender and the ethnic Irish-American Quentin is untouched. However, Tarantino's character doesn't last much longer since El Mariachi walks in shortly after and shoots the place up, and the two guys in the secret room in the bar's bathroom mistake Quentin for being in cahoots with the gunman and shoot him.
  • Beige Prose: "It was as though the lights dimmed just for him."
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: It has a significantly higher budget ($7 million) than El Mariachi did ($7 thousand), and it shows.
  • Blown Across the Room: Mariachi does this all the time, either with his shotguns or with Guns Akimbo.
  • Bookcase Passage: One of the most disgusting hidden doors, behind an out-of-order, feces-smeared bathroom stall.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Near the end of the bar shootout, Mariachi and one of the nameless thugs need a few tries to find a gun that isn't out of ammo. He also carries numerous extra magazines on him and reloads throughout.
  • Cain and Abel: It is revealed when Mariachi and Bucho finally face off that they are brothers.
  • Captain Obvious: When the goons at the bar confront El Mariachi about the guitar case, he invokes this: "What is that?" "My guitar case." "What's in it?" "...My guitar...?" It's a Call-Back to the first movie, where the exchange involves a different character.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Campa and Quino, the two mariachis that El Mariachi calls in for backup during the final act, appear as his band in the film's opening credits. Navajas can also be seen flipping a knife in his hand in the background early on when the last guy from the Tarasco bar is stalking El Mariachi down the street.
  • Confessional:
    • Mariachi is a good Catholic, so he goes to confession after cleaning out Tarasco in the bloodiest shootout in the entire film:
    Mariachi: Bless me Father, for I have just killed quite a few men.
    Buscemi: No shit!
    • It also gets Lampshaded a bit later, when the actual priest comes up to El Mariachi.
    Priest: Would you like to come to confession, my son?
    Mariachi: Maybe later, father; because where I am going, I would just have to come right back.
  • Crippling the Competition: In the backstory shown in Desperado, the Mariachi received a hand wound that ruins him as a guitar player. However, it doesn't do anything to impair his later Improbable Aiming Skills as a gunfighter.
  • Deadly Rotary Fan: The Mariachi shoots a ceiling fan above a mook and it drops straight down taking the goon out. For added insult, the blades keep spinning and slapping the unconscious (or dead) underling repeatedly on the face, until the Mariachi mercifully shoots the fan, destroying it.
  • Death by Cameo: Quentin Tarantino is executed quickly. Well, okay, he tells the long version of an old joke and does a lot of other pointless stuff, too.
  • Deus ex Machina: El Mariachi kills Bucho but it's not explained how he and Carolina escape because everything fades to white. This is because the entire final shootout, which would have had El Mariachi and Carolina blast through Bucho's entire gang, was cut from the movie.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Seriously, the first half hour is just "Guys telling stories in bars: The movie."
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Carolina's introduction. Hey, it's Salma Hayek, they have an excuse. Judging by her reaction to the car crash, it's not the first time that's happened. This led to a meta example when she and Antonio Banderas filmed their sex scene and the entire crew came to watch.
  • Diving Save: Despite his wounds, Mariachi sprints across the street to save the oblivious guitar kid from being hit by a truck.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: When Mariachi and one of the goons in a bar shootout pull guns on each other, both guns are already out of ammo. It takes them a few tries to find a gun that still has a round left.
  • Dual Wielding: During one shoot-out, the Mariachi wields a Rossi Overland Sawed-Off Shotgun and a Sentinel Arms Stryker 12.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": A variation: He used to be a Mariachi, but now is a killer with a guitar case full of guns.
  • Exact Words: Bucho urges his mooks to kill anyone suspicious they don't recognize while El Mariachi is at large. Unfortunately for him, he also learns too late that his Colombian associates within the cartel have been sending their own agents into Santa Celeste. While he and the mooks in his headquarters bumble around trying to remember the number to the phone in his bulletproof limousine, the mooks in that very limousine are killing one of the Colombians' hitmen after they mistake him for El Mariachi.
  • Fade to White: Used in the climax.
  • Flashback with the Other Darrin: A scene from the end of the original El Mariachi is reprised at the beginning of Desperado, with Banderas in the role instead of Carlos Gallardo. It's fairly convincing.
  • Gangsta Style: For all his fame as a gunslinger, for most of the movie, Mariachi barely seems to know how to hold a gun properly.
  • Game-Breaking Injury: In the backstory, El Mariachi was shot through the hand, ruining his guitar skills and dreams of being a musician, and sending him down the path of vigilantism and vengeance.
    • Bucho's insistance that his second in command's nephew fight a particularly rough member of his cartel as part of the Gang Initiation Fight mentioned below ends with a knee injury said nephew can't just walk off and slows him and the rest of the cartel down from then on.
  • Gang Initiation Fight: When Bucho's dragon says that his nephew is trying to get into the gang, Bucho throws the nephew into a savage initiation fight.
  • Godzilla Threshold: El Mariachi is hesitant to call in Campa and Quino to help, because the two of them would likely destroy the whole town.
  • Guns Akimbo: The Mariachi uses dual Ruger KP90s to clean out the Tarasco Bar and to kill his brother.
  • The Gunslinger: El Mariachi is Type C, with undertones of Type A.
  • Hand Cannon: Buscemi describes one of the Mariachi's guns, a Sentinel Arms Stryker 12, as "the biggest fucking hand cannon I'd ever seen".
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Subverted: Buscemi trolls the same story of El Mariachi's massacre of a Bad Guy Bar to shady bars in different towns, and gauges the patrons' reactions. Annoyed disinterest in an annoying stranger's rambling? Move on to the next one. Mass "Oh, Crap!" from legitimately bad guys? Call in El Mariachi.
  • Heroic BSoD: After Bucho's men burn down Carolina's bookstore, Bucho himself turns up at the scene; El Mariachi winds up with a perfect chance to snipe him from a nearby rooftop, but suffers a BSOD when he sees Bucho's face. Bucho is his brother.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Subverted. It helps if your silencer is made to go with the gun you're using.
  • Hot Librarian: Carolina, though she, like everyone in the town, was a mule for the Big Bad's money.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: In particular the brewery shooting scene at its climax. El Mariachi has two semi-automatic pistols firing non-stop while two enemies have automatic weapons that are firing non-stop. All firing within 1-2 meters of each other, but still completely missing their shots. The scene had to be cut into panels with Mariachi and the two shooters separately, otherwise it would have been too ridiculous, even for this type of film at the time.
  • I Found You Like This: Carolina nurses El Mariachi back to health after the Tarasco shootout.
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • The musicians wield guitar cases that double as rocket launchers and machine guns.
    • During the dream-sequence in the film's opening credits, El Mariachi gives a bad guy a Tap on the Head with his guitar. Without having to stop playing to do so.
  • In a World…: From the trailer.
    In a town where greed rules, money talks, revenge kills and passion burns; Antonio rules.
  • Instrument of Murder: El Mariachi's guitar is actually a storage case for his guns. His friends Campa and Quino have guns disguised as guitar cases.
  • Ironic Name: No longer able to play breathtaking ballads with a guitar, El Mariachi's most harmonious music now comes in the form of gunfire and vengeful destruction.
  • Leap and Fire: Mariachi jumps off backwards between rooftops while unloading his pistols on two mooks.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Once El Mariachi gets his old crew together.
    El Mariachi: "Let's play."
  • Meaningful Name: The knife-throwing assassin Navajas, played by Danny Trejo. His name means "knives."
  • Ms. Fanservice: Who do you think?
  • Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight: The mooks in the bulletproof limousine lose about three quarters of their party when they accidentally earn Navajas' ire by ambushing him under the pretense that he's the heavily armed man in black they're looking for. However, Navajas cannot kill them all as he gets gunned down in the end, so Never Bring A Knife To A Gunfight after all?
  • No Name Given: El Mariachi, the Short Bartender, the guy played by Quentin Tarantino, etc. Basically the only characters that have explicitly given names are Carolina, Bucho, Campa and Quino.
    • Bucho calls his brother "Manito" though that is not his name, but rather a shorter form of "hermanito" which means "little brother" in Spanish. El Mariachi also calls Bucho "Cesar," implying that's his true given name.
    • Weird version with Buscemi, who is a No Name Given in the actual film, but is listed as 'Buscemi' in the credits - but it's not made clear if it's the character's name, or just the actor's. An unusual cross between No Name Given and The Danza.
  • Nothing Up My Sleeve: El Mariachi keeps dual Ruger KP90s up his sleeves. The KP90 is a large pistol, so the prop guns had their grips cut off to fit up his sleeves, which you can briefly see when he draws them.
  • Pillow Pistol: Mariachi does this with one of his Rugers, which concerns Buscemi:
    Buscemi: One day, you're gonna lay down too hard on that thing and blow your brains out.
  • Pocket Rocket Launcher: Quino, one of El Mariachi's compadres, wields a rocket launcher built into a guitar case, which is lightweight enough to flip up onto his shoulder when aiming.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Bucho's fellow Cartel members decided to send Navajas to look around town and give them reports on Bucho's activities on the same day Mariachi starts raising hell, and they tell Bucho long after he sent his goons out to find Mariachi and kill him (and to make things worse, neither Bucho nor any of the goons at his compound knows the number to the phone of his new armored limo, so he can't contact them). The result: Bucho's goons encounter Navajas just he's getting ready to kill Mariachi and the resulting fight ends with several of Bucho's goons and Navajas dead, as well as Bucho getting a whole lot of egg on his face.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Los Lobos.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Mariachi with Quino and Campa
  • Quick Draw: Mariachi does this with two full-sized .45s from his sleeves.
  • Remake Cameo: The star of El Mariachi, Carlo Gallardo, has a minor role in Desperado.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The bad guys engaging in this saves the Mariachi's life. Danny Trejo's master knife-thrower is seconds away from killing him when a bunch of gunmen drive up, mistake Trejo for the Mariachi, and shoot him full of holes (losing half a dozen of their own in the fight). When they get back to base, their boss is on the phone to his bosses, who are telling him about their master knife-thrower whom they've sent to town.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: His name is El Mariachi. You killed his girlfriend. Prepare to die.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: El Mariachi uses this in the first major bar shootout, before switching to the Rugers for the rest of the movie.
  • Second-Face Smoke: The villain Bucho is lying on his bed, smoking a cigar and looking bored while a prostitute bounces up and down on him. Then she kisses him and he blows smoke into her mouth, sending her into a coughing fit.
  • Sexual Karma: The movie has an extended, passionate love scene between El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) and Carolina (Salma Hayek). Cut to the villain Bucho lying on his bed, smoking a cigar and looking bored while a prostitute bounces up and down on him. Then she kisses him and he blows smoke into her mouth, sending her into a coughing fit.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Deconstructed. El Mariachi has a buddy go ahead of him to towns and spread tales about him.
  • Slipknot Ponytail: Mariachi often keeps his hair in a ponytail, and it unravels into a badass mane during the shootouts that he gets into.
  • Soft Reboot: Basically one to El Mariachi due to the rather different characterization of the main character, from boyish innocent everyman Action Survivor to smoldering, brooding Action Hero, as evidenced by the recast from Gallardo to Banderas. Despite this movie having a flashback recreating a scene from its climax, that movie did not really hint or indicate that he would become the vengeance-seeking, gang-hunting figure he is in this one.
  • South of the Border: The film takes place in an unspecified town in Mexico.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": A Spanish language version with El Mariachi.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Bucho. Most of the film's comedy is his increasingly enraged disposition at how everything is going to hell in a handbasket for him courtesy of his goons' inefficiency making him look like an idiot in front of his fellow Cartel leaders (as well as them dying in droves when they encounter Mariachi... when he's not killing them himself because of said rage).
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Subverted: When Bucho's bosses describe Navajas over the phone, they begin the description by mentioning he's tall and dressed in black (not really distinctive), and has brown hair and eyes, traits which cover the vast majority of Mexico's population. However after this when Bucho prompts them for something more helpful they start supplying useful information (armed with a lot of knives, large tattoo on his constantly-exposed chest). Unfortunately by then, a comedy of errors has led to Navajas being killed by Bucho's goons and the only thing the description is good for is to let Bucho know that the dead guy the goons dragged to his compound is the emissary his bosses sent to help him, leaving Bucho with a lot of egg on his face and anticipating having even more problems with his boss.
  • A Tankard of Moose Urine: The Bad Guy Bar has terrible beer, to keep casual customers away (it's a front for the drug smuggling operation). After one of the customers says that the beer tastes like piss, Tavo makes a crack about pissing in the beer, and based on some of the reactions people have when drinking it, it's very possible he wasn't joking.
  • Token Competent Minion: Zamira is a downplayed example. She is the one who kills Navajas during his fight with Bucho's enforcers and is the only who actually manages to shoot him. When Bucho sends them out to find El Mariachi, he tells Zamira to stay behind, stating that he needs someone competent to guard him in his compound.
  • Took a Level in Badass: In the first movie, El Mariachi was an Action Survivor who spent most of the time on the run and only made a single kill. By the time this movie starts, he is clearing out bars and making a name for himself.
  • Two Shots from Behind the Bar: The opening shootout ends with the bartender pulling a shotgun to try to take out the Mariachi as he was walking away. As for how it turned out...
    Buscemi: ...No, man. The bartender got it worse than anybody.
  • The Unfavorite: Bucho (Cesar) hated the fact that their father loved El Mariachi more than him.
  • Unflinching Walk: Mariachi and Carolina do this after tossing a couple grenades off a roof. It makes a much larger explosion than it should.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Buscemi. Justified, as in he's intentionally trying to get the bar patrons torqued up to see how they'll react.
    • Although, going by the shootout that happens after he tells the story (to say nothing of the rest of the movie), he doesn't seem to have exaggerated much, if at all.
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out!: Carolina digs a bullet out of the Mariachi's arm following the Tarasco Bar shootout from Desperado. She does this by following the instructions in a book from her own bookstore collection. She explains to the concerned Msriachi that this is preferable over a visit to the town’s hospital. She finishes by cauterizing it with a cigarette.
  • Wham Line: Mariachi and Bucho's confrontation.
    Bucho: "I thought I was looking for the devil himself, when really it was just my kid brother".
  • You Have Failed Me: After Bucho's gang repeatedly fails to find and kill the Mariachi, Bucho demonstrates what they're supposed to do by saying "Look! I don't know him! He has a gun! That must be the guy!" and shooting one of his henchmen. "How hard is that?".