Picks and Pans Review: Desperado

updated 09/04/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/04/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Antonio Banderas

Banderas, unwashed and handsome, is a nameless former mariachi player with a vendetta against the drug lord who killed his girlfriend and put a bullet through his hand. Arriving in a Mexican border town, he carries a guitar case that conceals a small arsenal. It includes what looks like a miniature cannon a pirate might use to sink dinghies. Unfortunately we never get to see this weapon deployed, but just about everything else gets fired off or detonated in writer-director Robert Rodriguez's follow-up to his low-budget 1993 hit El Mariachi, which introduced this tongue-in-cheek action hero. This movie, bigger-budgeted and shot in bold color in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, is extremely violent in the by now familiar cartoon manner and is sprinkled with just enough viscera to cause mild discomfort in a viewer. Rodriguez handles the gunfights well, but there isn't enough variation from one to the next. Banderas gives his role exactly as much emotional commitment and deadpan humor as it needs, and no more—which in this case turns out not to be enough to ever completely distract the mind from the rich and fascinating topic of the actor's off-camera relationship with Melanie Griffith. As for the rest of the cast, Steve Buscemi, a thin, comically edgy actor who bears something of a resemblance to Ren, the Chihuahua from Ren & Stintpy, does what he can with the ill-defined role of Banderas's friend and adviser. But, please, no more cameo performances by Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino! (R)

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