Director Robert Rodriquez gained a remarkable amount of fame nearly ten years ago with his independent hit "El Mariachi". Made on a remarkably small budget of $7,000, the picture looked noticably more expensive than that, if still not quite to the level of a major motion picture. So, the studio wanted the filmmaker to do somewhat of a remarke of that picture, only with a budget of about 7,000,000 versus the original film's 7,000.
The Mariachi with no name is played this time around by Antonio Banderas (who worked with the director once again in the recent "Spy Kids"). This sequel/remake has Banderas's character seeking revenge on the man who killed the woman he loved and shot him in the hand. The film opens up with the musician's friend wandering into a nearby bar and telling a tale of the violence that occured in another bar when the musician walked in a few days back.
It becomes evident that the man he's looking for is in the town. Walking in to seek his revenge, he's instead confronted with several waves of the boss's henchmen. Thus begins what "Desperado" is certainly best at - several sequences of remarkably photographed and choreographed gunfights. The film's wonderful cinematography by Guillermo Navarro ("Spy Kids") launches the viewer into the middle of the chaos and lends a certain dusty beauty to the quieter moments.
The film's writing, on the other hand, is certainly not poor but rather minimal as the director seems to be letting the images and the phenomenal score by Los Lobos tell the story at times. Aside from the rather basic dialogue, the film does drag at a few points, but not for long. The performances are excellent, as Banderas is believably intimidating and powerful, while Salma Hayek does a fine job playing the love interest.
Although "Desperado" won't go down as a favorite film, it's certainly entertaining at times and has some marvelously staged sequences as well as a fantastic score.
VIDEO: I suppose this is as good a place as any to discuss the studio's new "Superbit" line. The studio's experts in the DVD transfer department have come up with a line of "pure performance" DVDs. All of the supplemental material has been dropped in order to give the audio and video information the maximum amount of possible space on the DVD, allowing the video presentation especially to be presented at a higher bit-rate for what should be maximum picture quality. "Desperado" has been presented twice before by the studio, once on a solo edition and the other edition was a pairing with Rodriquez's "El Mariachi".
As for the title's "Superbit" edition, it really emerged as a clear and often dramatic improvement. Not that the original edition was bad, mind you. This edition, which looks to have been taken from new master, offers far better image quality than even the fine original release. Sharpness and detail are exceptionally good and even impressive at times; even tiny details like items in the background of the scene or hairs on the characters are clearly visible here.
The picture wasn't entirely flawless, though. I did notice a handful of minor speckles on the print used. These certainly caused very minimal and brief distraction, though. Other than the few minor blemishes, I noticed nothing in the way of pixelation or edge enhancement for a picture that appeared consistently clear and clean.
Colors appeared richer on this new release, as the golden, earthy color palette looked noticably richer and crisper on this edition. Flesh tones also looked more accurate here and black level appeared stronger, as well. This is a wonderful presentation and a noticable improvement over the original. English, Spanish, Portuguse, French, Chinese, Korean and Thai subtitles are provided.
SOUND: "Desperado" is presented here in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. The film's soundtrack is one that's been a favorite of many home theater owners since the original DVD's release. Although the film doesn't provide action sequence after action sequence, there are still what I consider several demo sequences, such as the shootout in the bar during the first half of the picture. Ambient sounds are generously offered throughout the film, from the sounds of the street to even slight gusts of wind. Surrounds are put into heavy use and during the gunfights they really go into overdrive.
In terms of Dolby Digital 5.1 versus DTS 5.1 on this release, the DTS 5.1 soundtrack came through as a clearly superior presentation over the Dolby version, especially in the intense gunfight sequences throughout the film. Gunfire sounded more detailed and powerful on the DTS soundtrack and combined with the more seamlessly enveloping surround presentation that the DTS edition offered, these sequences became much more convincing.
The action sequences weren't the only elements that seemed to benefit from the DTS presentation; the wonderfully entertaining score by Los Lobos really did sound richer and crisper here, as well. The score seemed to fill the room wonderfully on the DTS edition, while the Dolby Digital 5.1 didn't succeed with the score as well. Ambient sounds and slight details were even more apparent on the DTS edition than they were on the film's Dolby Digital 5.1 edition. Dialogue sounded clear and easily understood on both editions.
MENUS:: As with all of the Superbit titles, the menus look very basic and have no animation or other touches at all.
EXTRAS:: As with all "Superbit" titles, there are no extras, which are taken out to make the maximum amount of room for audio/video.
Final Thoughts: I have mixed feelings about the "Superbit" line and I think they'll vary from title-to-title. Although I'm certainly not entirely negative about the line, I can understand where many who seem to be are coming from. DVD buyers, over the past year or two, have been presented with "Ultimate", "Collector's" or the "Super Genius" edition (bonus points if you know what DVD that comes from). To be presented with another opportunity to re-purchase a title they've already bought likely makes many weary or even irritated. Yet, I believe that the idea of maximized presentations does certainly appeal (although the differences/improvements are going to vary by how much on a case-by-case basis, as seen on these first titles in the series). I think that maybe this can be re-thought somewhat for future titles - a 2nd disc with an additional non-"Superbit" widescreen edition and paired with commentary and other features, maybe?. Either way, part of me is excited and wants to see more - anything like this that pushes the format's ability to present extremely high-quality audio/video to its limits is a welcome concept.
As with almost all of the "Superbit" titles, there is a trade-off between the original edition and the latest edition. The "Superbit" edition does improve upon the audio/video quality of the original edition and the double-feature edition, but it doesn't have the extras that the double-feature edition had. On the other hand, the double-feature edition is about $12-13 more. For those purely interested in the best possible presentation of "Desperado", though, this is certainly it in terms of both audio and video - a definite recommendation for fans of the film.
The Film ***