Blu-Ray Review: ‘El Mariachi,’ ‘Desperado,’ ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’

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CHICAGO – Timed to coincide with Fox’s release of “Machete,” Sony has released three of director Robert Rodriguez’s earlier action extravaganzas on two releases — a double feature of “El Mariachi” and “Desperado” to sit next to your new copy of “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” Both releases feature more special features and arguably better HD transfers than Rodriguez’s 2010 film and could be the better choice for your Blu-ray dollar than “Machete.”

I can still remember the waves caused by Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi.” He was a part of a new school of DIY filmmakers in the ’90s who truly changed the movie scene. With other filmmakers like Richard Linklater (with “Slacker”) and Kevin Smith (with “Clerks”), Rodriguez made the idea that anyone could be the next notable director seem real. It was a wave that would eventually create household names like Quentin Tarantino and gave birth to a career in Rodriguez that has consistently produced for the last two decades. The man who made an action movie without a studio budget would go on to become one of the more notable action directors of the ’90s and ’00s with hits like “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Spy Kids,” “Sin City,” and “Grindhouse.” If you haven’t seen “El Mariachi,” you should just to complete your history of ’90s indie cinema. It’s an important entry.

Once Upon a Time in Mexico was released on Blu-Ray on January 4th, 2011.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico was released on Blu-Ray on January 4th, 2011.
Photo credit: Sony

And Rodriguez would top it with a movie that is essentially its remake in “Desperado” just three years later. Still one of Rodriguez’s most completely enjoyable films, “Desperado” is a blast. It features Antonio Banderas at his most suave, Salma Hayek at her most sexy, and Rodriguez at one of his most creative peaks. It’s the kind of B-movie fun that would typify its director’s best work. And it’s still fun a decade-and-a-half later.

By 2003, Robert Rodriguez had made the Weinsteins some serious bank and he was rewarded with the (comparatively) high-budget “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” a project that drew household names like Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, and Eva Mendes and a budget north of $30 million. Larger in scope, “Mexico” found a loyal audience but remains a misfire for this critic. It’s fun but a little too bloated for its own good, a problem that Rodriguez would run into again with “Planet Terror” and “Machete.” Sometimes Rodriguez completely unleashed is not a good thing. Still, it has some great moments and would make a nice addition to the collection of any serious action fan.

The Sony releases of “The El Mariachi Trilogy” are loaded with special features but the transfers seem kind of mediocre. They all look good but not great, closer to upconverted standard DVD pictures than HD remasters. With the controversy over the fact that Fox essentially chose to give fans of “Machete” no special features, they’ll be happy to note that the typical Rodriguez overload of bonus material is present here.

Special Features:

“El Mariachi/Desperado Double Feature”
o Director Robert Rodriguez Commentary on both films
o MovieIQ
o The Cutting Room
o 10 Minute Film School
o Robert Rodriguez’s Student Film: “Bed Head”
o 10 More Minutes: Anatomy of a Shootout
o Los Lobos with Antonio Banderas - “Morena De Mi Corazón”
o Tito & Tarantula- “Back To The House That Love Built”

“Once Upon a Time in Mexico”
o Robert Rodriguez Audio Commentary
o 10 Minute Flick School
o Inside Troublemaker Studios
o Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
o 10 Minute Cooking School
o The Anti-Hero’s Journey
o Film is Dead: An Evening With Robert Rodriguez
o The Good, The Bad, and The Bloody: Inside KNB FX
o The Cutting Room
o MovieIQ

“El Mariachi,” “Desperado,” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” star Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Danny Trejo, Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Mickey Rourke, Willem Dafoe, Enrique Iglesias, and Eva Mendes. They were written and directed by Robert Rodriguez. They were released on Blu-ray on January 4th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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