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Case Number 03394: Small Claims Court

Buy Desperado: Special Edition at Amazon

Desperado: Special Edition

Sony // 1995 // 103 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // October 7th, 2003

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All Rise...

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Desperado: Superbit Edition (published November 12th, 2001), El Mariachi / Desperado (Blu-Ray) (published December 29th, 2010), and El Mariachi/Desperado (published January 28th, 2000) are also available.

The Charge

He came back to settle the score.

The Case

I'll try not to plagiarize myself from my concurrent review of El Mariachi, but as the two films are so intertwined, this may all sound very familiar before it's over.

Doing a Memento

Previously reviewed by former Judge Norman Short, Desperado has been released to DVD numerous times, including a Superbit version. Judge Short reviewed two of these discs, and links to these verdicts are provided on the right-hand side of this review. What makes this latest incarnation different from its predecessors? Very, very little. Carrying the excellent transfers from the Superbit version—sans the DTS track, naturally—and the bonus materials from an even earlier release, this "special edition" release can only say it brings one new thing to the table: a sneak peek at director Robert Rodriguez's third movie in the "Mariachi" trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico. And that's it. Why is this a "special edition"? Because they've run out of titles at this point.

Not having viewed any of the previous DVD releases, I would have to posit that the transfers on this disc are the ones that were used on the Superbit disc. I found no flaws, and the video is excellent: colors pop from the screen, blacks appear bottomless, and sharpness and detail add depth and dimensionality to the transfer. There is nothing to quibble about with the video. The audio transfer, too, is thoroughly encompassing, and your system will come alive from all directions with sparkling dialogue, thunderous bass, and dynamic use of the surrounds. Though available, the DTS track was left off, probably because Columbia decided that there wasn't enough room to squeeze it all onto one disc comfortably. If they had, it may have undermined their Superbit propaganda.

The special features follow the same pattern as the El Mariachi disc, but they aren't as good as those. Robert Rodriguez offers up another fascinating commentary track, but it's not as compelling as his effort on El Mariachi. Next, you get "10 More Minutes with Robert Rodriguez: Anatomy of a Shootout." After the first "10 Minutes," I had very high hopes for this follow-up, but I found it lifeless and stale. It wasn't as personal as the first featurette. Rounding out the bonus items are the trailer and some filmographies. The sneak peek at Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the usual fluff piece and is not anything special.

Desperado itself seems to mirror the quality of the bonus materials as compared to El Mariachi. This sequel/remake is very entertaining, yet it is missing the zeal and inspiration that makes the first film so fresh and enjoyable. It is good, but it is lacking in its approach. How? My main concern is the repetition in the motivation for our mariachi: revenge. This was the same thing that happened in the first film—and it'll be the same thing that happens in the third film. Yes, this is a "remake" of El Mariachi, but not really. Truly, Desperado picks up where we left off, and the story of our newly minted vigilante progresses as he hunts down his adversaries. As such, it is a sequel. But, many scenes do mirror those from El Mariachi, and it's instantly obvious that Rodriquez wanted to revisit (remake) those scenes with his bigger stars, bigger budget, and better equipment. This whole sequel/remake tandem seems to bog the film down at times.

Another item of dismay on my point is the exaggerated violence. In the first film, gunfights are portrayed "realistically" (for movies); but in this film, when people are shot, they fly across the room in comic book fashion. After watching both films, I found the original's approach was better and kept the tale cemented in some sort of reality. But, that's not what Rodriguez wanted. In all truthfulness, this exaggerated approach does work for this film—but it will get too over-the-top in the final installment of the series.

Shedding the cast of unknowns for an eclectic group of actors including Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Cheech Marin, Quentin Tarantino, and Steve Buscemi, Desperado instantly distances itself from its meager roots. Rodriguez takes it even further by utilizing his Hollywood budget to stage elaborate gunfights, have big explosions, and expand into fancy camerawork. Desperado is a slick and beautiful re-imagination of El Mariachi. And, speaking of beautiful, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the lovely delights of Ms. Hayek in this film. Exuding sultriness from every pore, Hayek creates the character that can truly win the despondent Mariachi's heart.

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention Banderas' hair. This style is awesome, and he never looks better than he does in this film. He should be required to keep this cut for all his movies.

In this film, Banderas takes over the role of the mariachi, a man who lost the woman he loved. His passion for her was so strong that he has dedicated his life to the pursuit of all those who contributed to her wrongful death. Though everything arose because of a case of mistaken identity, the mariachi has assumed that identity and become the most feared killer in Mexico. He is now a legend.

Desperado is a worthy sequel to the cult favorite El Mariachi. It may be lacking a few of the original's notes of innovation and verve, but it makes up for it with a shiny picture that crackles with polish. As always, the multi-dip question rears its ugly head, and I now have to help you determine if this version is worthy of purchase:

• If you do not own any copy of Desperado, then this is your best bet. It has the bonus materials, the great transfers (but no DTS), and the best price.
• If you already own a previous copy of Desperado, then you should not buy this copy. It has nothing new to offer.

With the retail price of this latest incarnation being only $14.99 (and available in a two-pack with El Mariachi for only $19.99), there's really not a good reason for you not to own a copy of this entertaining film.

Case adjourned.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
• English
• Chinese
• French
• Portuguese
• Spanish
• Thai
Running Time: 103 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Rated R
• Action

Distinguishing Marks

• Audio Commentary with Director Robert Rodriguez
• 10 More Minutes with Robert Rodriguez: Anatomy of a Shootout
• Director and Cast Filmographies
• Theatrical Trailer
• Sneak Peak: Once Upon a Time in Mexico

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