(only for action)

One wonders if there is some special quality shared by Antonio Banderas and Don Johnson that has attracted Melanie Griffiths as well as half of the female (and probably as many of the male) population of the western world.

And, speaking of western, Banderas is the Mariachi slinging his gun all over the place in his latest offering (and first leading role in an American movie), the action thriller Desperado. Here we find some of the California in-crowd on the rampage, having fun and shooting everything in sight. Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, and even Quentin Tarantino all share in the blasting delights of a man bent on revenge. Music by Los Lobos.

Writer/director Robert Rodriguez explains that this "second in a unique series of movies set in Mexico with this artist/musician as the hero, a man in black with a guitar case full of weapons," is a "weird, contemporary western. It's just not a typical movie."

Star Banderas comments on the film by saying, "There is romanticism and humor, but, course, being an action movie, we are going to see lots of explosions and real excitement. I think the movie has something inside. The characters have feelings. They have pain. They have struggles with themselves. There is a contrast between who the Mariachi is and what he would like to be. He is both angel and devil. But he is also a dreamer."

All of the action, from sliding across bars to jumping in front of trucks to springing off rooftops must have been of great assistance for his motivation. He reveals all: "The pain. I've spent a lot of time at night putting creams and oils on my knees and elbows, thinking, My God, I can't move! But that ended up working well for the character. I think the Mariachi is covering up a great deal of pain."

Banderas has carved his own niche as the new Latin Lover of the cinema and is probably the most exciting personality for this category since Valentino. Familiar to many from his work in Pedro Almodovar's films, he has now managed to appeal to a massive audience by extending himself further in such movies as Mambo Kings and Interview with a Vampire.

Salma Hayek, a beautiful, sensual and talented actress, portrays the role of Carolina with grace. She is the perfectly cast in her role opposite Banderas. Carolina is a well-meaning who believes in the higher asperations of mankind and is, naturally, a great lover of literature.

It is as a result of these convictions that she has decided to maintain a bookshop, despite the fact that no one in the village is able to read and never purchases a book. Of course, the majority of the audience watching this action thriller is probably suffering from the same malaise. In order for Carolina to afford the luxury of the shop she maintains she lets it double as a pick-up spot for drugs.

Guns, ammo, and explosions were obviously the order of the day during the making of this film. So much so, that the first assistant director added a special sidebar to the daily call sheet entitled "Robert's Shooting Schedule." On it, he kept a tally of the Mariachi's victims under the headings "Killed to Date," "To Be Killed Today," and "Yet To Be Killed."

Property master Terry Haskell and his assistent, Mark Green, carried a veritable arsenal secured in their prop truck. Mach 10s, the Mariachi's signature Ruger P-90s, a custom barreled twin shotgun, .50 caliber Desert Eagles and a .9 mm Baretta's are merely a sampling of the firepower on board. More than 8,000 round of ammunition were used.

One of the director's favorite special effects was a device that he nicknamed the "guacamole gun" which was a thin-barreled air-powered gun which shot blood onto an actor and was used to "kill" both Cheech and Tarantino.

As Pauline Kael might say, "Kiss, kiss, bang, bang."

© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett