El Mariachi | Chicago Reader

El Mariachi

A very low-budget ($7,000) first feature by Robert Rodriguez (1993) that's juicy, adroit, and likable—an action picture set in a town on the Mexican border, where a mariachi musician (Carlos Gallardo) and a hit man (Reinol Martinez) arrive at the same time, both carrying guitar cases. Not only are they mistaken for each other by the various henchmen working for an Anglo drug baron (Peter Marquardt) who wants the hit man rubbed out, but the musician—who's already being shoved out of his traditional art by Muzak—winds up becoming a killer simply to stay alive. The whole thing can be read as a potent satirical allegory about an independent “third world” filmmaker like Rodriguez forced to imitate and sell out to his Yankee exploiters to survive: the drug baron, like a Hollywood producer, spends most of his time lounging around a pool served by a bimbo in a bikini, and the film itself was distributed by Columbia, which promptly signed Rodriguez to shoot a $6 million English-language remake—a form of humiliation that obviously constitutes ultimate “success” in many people's minds. Consuelo Gomez plays the feisty heroine.



  • Robert Rodriguez


  • Carlos Gallardo
  • Consuelo G√≥mez
  • Reinol Martinez
  • Peter Marquardt


  • Robert Rodriguez


  • Elizabeth Avellan
  • Carlos Gallardo
  • Robert Rodriguez

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