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Antonio Banderas is the ultimate in sexy action cool as the guitarist and lover boy who has no problem with premature ejaculation except when it comes to guns. This killer mariachi can barely unholster before he’s firing off. His chief target is Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida), a Mexican drug baron who provides a string of thugs for our hero to pop while Carolina (Salma Hayek), the babe owner of a border-town bookstore that does no business, kisses his wounds.

Does this cross between Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns and John Woo’s Hong Kong kickers sound familiar? It should. Desperado is writer, producer and director Robert Rodriguez’s sleek update of El Mariachi, the 1992 film that cost a puny $7,000 and won the Texas maverick a prize at Sundance. Now he gets Banderas, a score by Los Lobos and a budget in the millions. The stunts dazzle until you miss the low-key charm and cost-conscious inventiveness of the original. Desperado is best when Rodriguez lets his playful side cut through the blare of a born filmmaker indulging his first chance at high-end Hollywood fireworks.


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