Desperado is something of a sequel to El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez's first feature - itself done on less than a shoestring budget (I highly recommend the book "Rebel Without a Crew" he wrote about the experience). Desperado is supposedly how Rodriguez would have done El Mariachi if he'd had the resources at the time. With a studio behind him, he was able to realize those plans.

We pick up where El Mariachi ends (okay, there's first an extended scene with Steve Buscemi manipulating the people in a bar with his words). Our hero - never mentioned by name, but credited as El Mariachi - has gotten mixed up with local organized crime and ends up with his love being killed and his hand being shot. He kills the man immediately responsible for his predicament, yet that's not enough for him. He then proceeds with a campaign against the man atop the "organization", even though he's at worst only indirectly involved. Then we are treated to essentially the same sequence of scenes as the first movie.

The movie is internally conflicted as to whether it's a sequel or a remake. True, a lot of sequels are really remakes of a sort, but this is a special case. From one perspective, not that many people saw El Mariachi, so more than usual, the film needed to stand on its own.

The main difference between the films is that the first is an everyman-in-trouble story, while the second is pretty much about revenge. The primary gain from this change is upping the firepower in the actions scenes. We lose our sympathy for El Mariachi. We turn from interesting dramatic story to action drivel. The difference is not huge, but it's what's driving the movie.

As for other weirdness, El Mariachi is now part of a musical trio. He's also now played by Antonio Banderas, whereas former El Mariachi Carlos Gallardo is relegated to a supplementary position in the trio, and a simple, unglorified death later on.

Quentin Tarantino makes a brief appearance in the film. His dialog is supposed to be witty, but it fails. Occasionally, the Tarantino-Rodriguez friendship resulted in interesting things, but mostly its fruit was pretty bed, if experimental and edgy.

Desperado is not as bad as I feared. The pull of a real budget and wasting it in firepower was rumored to make this almost unwatchable. But we have some good elements. Rodriguez is clever about his filmmaking, though the writing here is not much better than a search-and-replace of homonyms of the first film.

If you like action, you may like the film - Rodriguez's abilities are strongest here, but the story does not really deliver.

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