Guilty Pleasures: Steve Brewer

I like my cheese spicy with extra gunfire, so my choice for Guilty Pleasure would be “Desperado,” the 1995 hit with Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek.

The movie is the middle episode in the “El Mariachi” trilogy, directed by Robert Rodriguez. In the trilogy, a guitarist becomes a Mexican legend when vengeance turns him from strumming to shooting.
The first film, called “El Mariachi” (1992), is a legend in its own right because Rodriguez made it for $7,000 (yes, you read that right) and it became a Sundance hit and launched his career. By the time he wrote and directed “Desperado,” he had Hollywood backing and the budget was $7 million. The third film, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” (2003) was made for $26 million. And so it goes.

All three films have an ultra-violent comic-book sensibility that Rodriguez has also shown off in films such as “Sin City” and “Machete.”

“Desperado” is one of those movies I can never pass on the television dial. I’ve seen it half a dozen times now, so it’s easy to dive in anywhere. It’s essentially a collection of action sequences, strung together by a fairly flimsy storyline: Carrying a guitar case full of weapons, El Mariachi (Banderas) goes to a lawless Mexican town in search of a crime boss called Bucho (Joaquin de Almeida). There he falls for the local beauty (Hayek) while sparking a war with Bucho’s gang.

But, oh, the action scenes. The incredible shootout in the bar. The rooftop escape. The gunmen approaching outside the filmy curtains while Hayek plays guitar with her eyes closed. The knife-throwing killer. The absurd climactic battle when El Mariachi is joined by two others just like him. The final faceoff with Bucho.

Fun stuff, beautifully choreographed. There’s a reason people compare Rodriguez to action director John Woo.

The two stars have never looked more beautiful than they do in this movie. Banderas flings his hair around and emotes his ass off. Salma Hayek runs around in heels and curls and flippy skirts that could stop a man’s heart. And that candlelit love scene between the two of them? Great googly-moogly.
Plus, you’ve got star turns by Steve Buscemi, Cheech Marin, Quentin Tarentino, Danny Trejo and some chubby kid who only wants to learn guitar, but is distracted by all the gunfights.

Best line in the movie? When a priest asks El Mariachi if he’d like to confess, and Banderas says, “Maybe later, Father. ‘Cause where I am going, I’d just have to come right back.”

Shootouts, explosions, showdowns and Salma Hayek, too. How could you possibly change the channel?


Steve Brewer is the author of 16 crime novels, including the Bubba Mabry private eye series and such standalones as “Firepower,” “Cutthroat” and “Bank Job.” The first Bubba book, “Lonely Street,” was made into an indie comedy starring Robert Patrick and Jay Mohr. Steve’s car-thief caper “Boost” is currently under option in Hollywood. A former newspaper reporter and columnist, Steve also writes humor books and a blog ( He lives in Santa Cruz, CA.