*1/2 (out of 5)
October 11, 2013
Danny Trejo as MACHETE
Mel Gibson as VOZ
Demian Bichir as MENDEZ
Amber Heard as MISS SAN ANTONIO
Michelle Rodriguez as LUZ
Sofia Vergara as DESDEMONA
Carlos Estevez as MR. PRESIDENT
Studio: Open Road
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Holy hell, what happened to Robert Rodriguez? I used to like his films quite a bit. However, his endearing run-and-gun, do-it-yourself style of filmmaking has morphed into a monster with ADHD and very little restraint. It’s hard for me to believe that the guy who made “Sin City” (one of my favorite films of that year) is now circling the drain, making spoofs of his own franchises.
“Machete Kills” has roots in the grindhouse revival that Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino spearheaded in 2007. While the fake trailer for “Machete” in the “Grindhouse” double feature was a lot of fun, it was only an okay movie when expanded into a full-length film in 2010. Now, Rodriguez has delivered the promised “Machete Kills” in another bigger budgeted grindhouse misfire.
In this movie, apparently superhuman ex-Federali Machete (Danny Trejo) is recruited by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen, credited as Carlos Estevez) to track down an evil cartel leader (Demian Bichir). This quest into Mexico leads Machete back to the U.S. to find the ultra-evil Bond villain known as Voz (Mel Gibson), who has a plan to wipe out all of humanity.
Even though I was lukewarm about the first “Machete,” I thought it was mostly a decent send-up of the south-of-the-border grindhouse movies of the past. However, with this sequel, Rodriguez takes things to a ridiculous level, employing plot points of science fiction, Nicolas Cage films and spy gadgets that seemed to have rolled right out of a ultra-violent “Austin Powers” movie.
A similar thing happened to Rodriguez’s endearing “Spy Kids” films. Those movie started out as clever kids movies. However, by the time it reached the most recent one (numero quatro), things were ludicrous. Part of this was possibly due to the fact that Rodriguez famously came up with the story with his children (a technique employed with “The Adventures of SharkBoy and LavaGirl”). Sure, that’s cute, but you end up with a movie that feels like it was written by a six-year-old.
Rodriguez’s storytelling takes a similar nosedive with “Machete Kills,” flying off the rails and ceasing to be an old-school grindhouse story. He throws everything at the screen, no matter how silly or goofy. In this way, he seems to forget what made that original fake “Machete” trailer so fun, which was its throwback nature and not its ability to spoof its own genre.
And that’s the real problem with so many of these grindhouse tributes – from “Death Proof” to “Hobo with a Shotgun.” When it comes to real grindhouse pictures, they were B- and C- titles that filled out double- and triple-features at drive-ins. They often made great trailers, but they also made terrible movies. If you don’t believe me, check out the trailer for “Werewolves on Wheels” (a film about bikers turned into werewolves by a Satanic cult), and then track down the movie. The trailer’s hilarious; the movie is unwatchable.
Like Michael Bay did with his movie “Pain and Gain” earlier this year, Rodriguez seems to forget what the actual joke is behind the “Machete” franchise, and he gives into his own hype. The grindhouse throwback style is muddled by things that you’d never seen in a grindhouse picture – like crystal clear video photography, large scale visual effects and buckets of CGI blood that take you out of the experience. (Seriously, Hollywood needs to stop using CGI blood altogether. Is there no one out there that has the stones to tell these visual effects guys that it looks awful?)
Even when fun elements arise – like a new fake trailer for the promised “Machete Kills Again” – you see it a the front of the film, and it blows the whatever surprise is left in the finale of the picture.
If all you want is silliness bordering on stupidity and extreme bordering on nonsensical, check out “Machete Kills.” However, the film is a mess, from the conception stage.