It's Sergio Leone meets Sam Peckinpah meets Quentin Tarantino in this ultraviolent, mythological shoot-'em-up by auteur Robert Rodriguez. In Desperado, Rodriguez creates larger-than-life, genre-tweaking stock characters and puts them through their paces. As they stride bravely through an Old West lightly dusted with camp humor, they're periodically called upon to nimbly dodge bullets and fireballs through outrageously choreographed displays of Hollywood pyrotechnics. In this bigger-budget semi-remake/semi-sequel to Rodriguez's indie sensation, El Mariachi (made, famously, for $7,000), Antonio Banderas is the darkly charismatic El Mariachi, the Mysterious Stranger in town; Steve Buscemi is perfectly cast as his weasely, motor-mouth Comic Sidekick, laying the groundwork for El Mariachi's entrance by spinning saloon stories to build up his legend; Cheech Marin is a standout as the Bartender, who really knows how to handle a toothpick; and gorgeous Salma Hayek is, well, the Girl--treated to the kind of full-blown, slow-mo introduction the movies traditionally lavish on beautiful new stars. It doesn't add up to much, but it's a kick. Be careful not to blow out your speakers with the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. --Jim Emerson
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