and in walks the biggest Mexican I've ever seen...
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * * ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * * )
Desperado has been a home theater staple of mine for almost ten years. With each viewing the movie seems to get better and better. Over these ten years I've owned five different copies of Desperado on three different formats. Desperado is the definitive action movie. All other action movies, except perhaps The Killer, are held to this standard, a movie of pure action. As the Hollywood movie machine plops out tired formula-based films running often over $100 million dollars, Desperado stands the test of time. A seven million dollar perfect action movie.
"If he can't beat Cristos, I'm not interested." The muscled but graceful tattooed warrior climbs the split tie fence and drops into "the ring of death". He starts the fight with a left jab almost taking out his opponent in a single hit. A furious battle takes place, ending when the opponents leg splinters under Cristos's low jump kick. The opponent jumps up, kicking Cristos with his broken leg. Blood pours from Cristo's mouth and he falls dead in the Mexican dust. No words are shared and Cristos never has a single line in the movie. Desperado's perfection comes from four things; excellent minimal writing, surrealistic action scenes, and perfect characters who act instead of speak. Half of the characters in Desperado including our hero and the villain don't even have names. They come on screen with fury in their eyes and soon fury in their hands. People fly through the air landing against walls full of animal horns. The Mariachi, Antonio Banderas dances on a bar top firing behind his back as swarms of drug cartel fodder fall in piles on the floor. A knife wielding foe jumps onto our hero who kicks him into the air and fires no less than 30 shots into him before he hits a table in a pile of blood flannel. Only the bare minimum of dialog is used. The most interesting characters, Cristos, Kampa, Qino, the Colombian knife thrower, don't have any lines at all. When our main character meets Carolina, played by an unknown Salma Hayek, her beauty is so great a car wreck happens right behind her, the drivers never stopping their cat calls as their cars crumple together. No words are shared as he pushes her out of the way, takes a bullet in the arm and blows the head off of the gangster who stalks him.
Not a single scene loses this focus. An excellent commentary by Collateral Damage fail tremendously to hold even the smallest bit of what makes Desperado such a great movie.
There are a few different DVD versions of Desperado available. The most recent "special edition" Desperado / El Mariachi pack is the best one to get. While the Superbit version contains a DTS soundtrack, there is no other advantage to it and it lacks the all-important director's commentary. Both the double-pack and the Superbit cuts are 16x9 enhanced 1.85 to 1 pictures with a great Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. After listening to this movie about fifty times, I cannot tell a difference between the Superbit DTS and Dolby Digital versions. Get the most recent version with the director's commentary and don't be afraid to buy it. It is a perfect movie for any collection.
I am writing this review after having just seen "Once Upon A Time In Mexico", the third in the Rodregez Mariachi trilogy. While I will pass on any review of that movie until I can decide how I really feel about it, I can say that it proved what a great movie Desperado is. Compared to every action movie before or since, Desperado is perfect. It is a movie all directors, especially action directors, should use when making a movie. It is a perfect diamond in a sea of glass. Buy it and proudly show it off in your collection.