23-year-old Robert Rodriguez's feature debut combines the premise of Hitchcock's THE WRONG MAN with the frenetic pace of THE ROAD WARRIOR and the tongue-in-cheek style of a spaghetti western. Originally intended for the Spanish-language video market, EL MARIACHI so impressed Hollywood that after some post-production upgrading far in excess of production costs, it was showcased at festivals and released in theaters. The title character, an unemployed singer/guitarist (Carlos Gallardo), wanders into a small Mexican town and is mistaken for vicious hitman Azul (Reinol Martinez), who has just broken out of prison, since they both wear black and carry guitar cases. After several close calls, the innocent musician receives help from the woman who runs a local tavern. He charms her and convinces her he isn't the hunted criminal; she hires him to perform in her club and they become lovers. Azul, seeking revenge on his former partner, Moco (Peter Marquardt), terrorizes the town; things come to a head when Moco abducts the woman and the mariachi must come to the rescue. EL MARIACHI's genius lies not in its complexity or innovation but in its ability to create an engaging action picture from bare-bones resources. Mexican-American Rodriguez (the film's director/writer/producer/cinematographer/editor/sound recordist) turned out a fun, stylish, action-packed movie on a ridiculously low budget of $7,000. The unrelenting tempo is bolstered by Rodriguez's camera work and editing: nearly every frame seems to have been shot with a careening, handheld camera, and they're cut together in a skillful, fluid fashion that enhances the tension and pace of the 80-minute chase.