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El Mariachi is a 1992 independent film by Robert Rodriguez. It is his first feature length film, and the first of the Mexico or Mariachi Trilogy, followed by Desperado and Once Upon a Time In Mexico.

A mariachi searching for work in Mexico ends up getting mistaken for gangster Azul. Azul has been marked for death by a former associate Moco, and Azul is trying to kill Moco first. Things get much worse for our protagonist when starts living with Moco's love interest and his guitar and case get switched for Azul's guitar case of guns.

This Movie contains examples of:

  • Accidental Hero: El Mariachi
  • Action Survivor: El Mariachi. The vast majority of the action sequences he takes part in mostly consist of guys with guns chasing him, and him running away trying to figure out why these guys are trying to kill him.
  • Anti-Hero: Azul
  • Bilingual Bonus: Moco, Azul, and Domino's names. Moco in particular seems a touch less threatening if you know what his name means in Spanish.[1]
  • Bodyguard Babes: The actor playing Azul said he'd only appear in the film if he could be seen in bed with two women. Rodriguez said they weren't making that kind of movie, but if he could find the women then Azul could have a couple of female bodyguards instead.
  • Catapult Nightmare
  • The Dog Bites Back: Moco spends much of the movie striking matches off The Dragon's face. When he is shot dead by El Mariachi, The Dragon's reaction is to strike a match off Moco's corpse and walk away.
  • Downer Ending: At the end of the film sure, Moco is dead, but El Mariachi has lost Dominio, and had his hand shot, meaning he may never play the guitar again (although he still can, as he does the sequels), and the final shot of the film is him riding alone and depressed down an empty highway.
  • Dream Sequence: Rodriguez admitted to having planned more of these as filler if the 90 minute time requirement wasn't met.
  • Drink Order: The Mariachi only drinks soda. Azul will only drink beer, "in a bottle, Guey!"
  • The Dulcinea Effect: "She was the most beautiful creature I've seen today. Next to the turtle, of course."
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Azul may be a vengeful hitman, but he's shocked and appaled when Moco murders Domino.
  • Genre Launch: This is one of the first examples of DIY filmmaking and its production became a case study on making a quality film with almost no money.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Two of the goons trying to kill El Mariachi miss him when he passes between them, literally inches from the barrels of their guns... and shoot each other in the chest.
  • Ironic Echo: See The Dog Bites Back.
  • Living Legend: "Big as shit".
  • Mistaken for Badass: The focus of the plot.
  • Mistaken Identity: Azul and El Mariachi are constantly mistaken for each other. Both wear black and carry guitar cases. As for what's inside the cases...
  • No Budget: Before Columbia financed post-production (to create a Dolby Stereo track and clean up the picture), the production budget was $7,000 ($3,000 earned from Rodriguez being a human guinea pig for medical testing).
  • No Name Given/Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": El Mariachi
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Many of the characters are presumably going
  • Rule of Three: What Rodriguez refers to as The Kindergartner's Method of Script Writing. You'll see Running Gags pulled off thrice, with a twist at the third use.
  • Satchel Switcheroo: When you have two characters who are mistaken for one another because of their guitar cases, something like this is bound to occur.
  • Smug Snake: Moco.
  • South of the Border: Beaten to death. The proudly-Mexican (well, Mexican-American) Rodriguez wants to show you the real Mexico (at least as real as you can get while making this sort of film), as experienced by Mexicans, not some imperialist romantic gringo bullshit.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: El Mariachi looks nothing like Azul, but the only description Moco's men have been given is "wears black, and carrying a guitar case".
  • Throw It In: The turtle, which was simply found by the road by a crew member one day. Also the dubbed line about free coconuts, which Rodriguez added when he realized they'd forgotten to film the Mariachi paying for the cococut.
  • White Shirt of Death: Moco. Azul even Lampshades this early in the film, saying he'd feel guilty ruining a perfectly good wardrobe out of revenge.
  • You Are Too Late: The title character arrives too late to save his love interest, who is gunned down by Moco in a fit of jealousy shortly before Azul also buys it.
  1. "Booger", or "Kiddo" in some places