El Mariachi will put you in the mood for Cinco de Mayo -- at gunpoint

When Tejano director Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi came out in the early '90s, we'd never seen anything quite like it, though the idea of an edgy, comic Western certainly had precursors, including the piquant Cat Ballou. But El Mariachi, famously -- and remarkably -- made on a $7,000 budget, is much darker than black in its comedic range.

The story of a music-loving guitarist mistaken for a hit man who carries his weapons in a guitar case, it is peppered with twists, turns and in-your-face Peckinpah-worthy gunfights, a love story and an unexpected ending. Without a star to bring an audience into the theater (like Antonio Banderas, who starred in Rodriguez's fancier remake, Desperado), the original flies exclusively on a powerful combination of originality and adrenaline -- and it's a wicked ride.

The Denver FilmCenter will screen El Mariachi at 7 p.m. today and again at the same time on Cinco de Mayo proper. It's definitely a celluloid achievement to celebrate, one that you'll want to take in on the big screen. Tickets range from $7 to $9.75; for information and reservations, visit the DFCC online or call 303-595-3456.

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