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Violence with a Purpose
by Sarah L. Polson

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Desperado is one of my all-time favourite movies. It's more because of Antonio Banderas' and Salma Hayek's chemistry than for the actual quality of the movie. But even more than that, it's because Desperado was one of the first movies I watched and had an "aha!" moment during.

We all love the things that make us feel smart, and Desperado did that for me. I was watching it with some friends and it got to the love scene between Antonio and Salma which was intermixed with shots of the bad guy with a hooker.

One of my friends asked, "Why do they always have to have these smut scenes in movies like this?"

In this case the sex scenes had a purpose though. The little "aha!" went off in my head and I was able to explain. In this case, the scene showed the difference between the good guy and the bad guy.

Antonio's character is passionate, loving and caring, even if he's with some girl that he just met. On the other hand, the bad guy doesn't even seem to care about what's going on. He even goes so far as to blow cigar smoke in the girl's mouth when she kisses him, showing his utter disregard for her and the situation.

In most cases, sex is just sex in a movie. In this case it helped develop character differences. Violence can also have a purpose in a movie.

I rented Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the follow-up movie to Desperado. Let me first say that I was horribly disappointed with this movie. I made the mistake of thinking this one would be just as enjoyable for me as Desperado, but it was either ruined by a bigger budget or a very complicated plot.

What it did have though was a great example of how violence can have a bigger purpose in a movie than shocking and horrifying an audience. It's a slim connection to something redeeming about this movie, but one that I'm going to cling too.

There's definitely a lot of violence in this movie. People are being shot and killed left and right and the one thing they have in common is that the shots are either aimed to kill or incapacitate right away. Which means that one death stands out because it isn't quick like all the rest.

When Banderas finally faces the General at the end of the movie, the pattern is changed. Instead of going for the kill shot, Banderas shoots the General in the knees first. It's obviously a painful shot as the General crumples to the floor and Banderas approaches him for the kill shot to the head.

It's the first indication we have that this is more than a mission for justice, it's a matter of personal revenge for Banderas. Even in Desperado when we knew he was after the drug cartel guy for killing his woman and shooting his hand, he still killed as quickly as possible. But in this one, the General is the first person we see him make suffer before killing.

So the violence in this scene not only serves the purpose of killing off the General, but it shows us how deeply Banderas was hurt when the General killed his wife and child. Not only was the General's death important to him, but he needed to suffer at least for a few moments the same level of pain that Banderas had felt with the death of his family.

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Smoke and Mirrors
Every other Wednesday

Movie magic isn't just about special affects. Sarah L. Polson shows you the other tricks and techniques used to manipulate movie goers.

Other Columns
Other columns by Sarah L. Polson:

A Whale of a Tale

Slo-mo, The Weapon of Choice

In Living Color

I'm Ready for My Close-up

Put Your Best Face Forward

All Columns

Sarah L. Polson
As a journalist from the midwest, Sarah L. Polson has a few years under her belt writing in the newspaper world. Having worked mainly in news writing, deviating from "just the facts" is a new experience for her.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Sarah L. Polson by clicking here.

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