Machete is charged by the president of the United States to track a devastating bomb that was heisted by a Mexican cartel. Unfortunately Machete finds the bomb has been placed in America and wired to the heart of the insane cartel boss, set to explode if the heart stops, and the boss has put a price on his own head, which means Machete must keep the boss alive while on a road trip to find the only other man capable of disarming the bomb, it’s creator, the head of a multinational company.
Robert Rodriguez, despite the kind of films he frequently puts out, is a film fans filmmaker. He knows about every individual element in the business, and when called upon, can handle them all and in a cost effective fashion.
He is so savvy in the art that he can visualise scenes so entirely that he can produce those scenes with the required actors never actually meeting each other (a prime example being the fight between Marv and Kevin in Sin City, in which, despite the characters being handcuffed together, Mickey Rourke and Elijah Wood respectively, were never on the set at the same time), which means he can be economical with the actor’s time, which in turn affords him some truly excellent casts.
He could be described as a master filmmaker but the rub is he doesn’t concern himself with the details, be they in plot, FX or realism, because, well, it’s just a film. He can put them together fast and cheap and they’ll always make back their money, which is good business. It’s a very old fashioned way of doing things and in the spirit of someone like Robert Corman.
It’s been eight years since Sin City, during which time Rodriguez has only produced Grindhouse homages and children’s films, which have been steadily decreasing in popularity, as is evident by the abysmal opening weekend of his latest, Machete Kills; but does that reflect the quality of the film?
Well, it’s not a ‘good’ film in a classical sense of the term, but it is what it was meant to be, so quality of production and storytelling here are totally secondary to your own preferences, even in comparison to, say, the first Machete film.
It starts as it means to go on, with a trailer for the (potential) THIRD film in the series, Machete Kills Again… In Space, a trailer SO over the top that it is apparent from this early stage that we’re watching a film that is more a parody of the Grindhouse scene than an homage, a move that perhaps could put off even fans of the first film.
The plot of the film proper is no less outrageous than this opening trailer, which initially is in great danger of getting old very quickly, which, added to the fact that this reviewer’s main complain of Rodriguez’s Grindhouse work is it’s inflated running time, of which Machete Kills is guilty, sets you up for a tiresome experience. But then something happens; the film changes tack, and then it happens again, then again, each time becoming MORE outrageous and wrenching up the pace to a breakneck speed, and increasing the fun factor by many fold.
This could quite easily have had the opposite effect, alienating me more to the film, which I suspect to some viewers it will, but on a personal level I found that the escalation combated the one-note joke nature of the first film, so it didn’t feel too long, and resulted in a more enjoyable experience.
It’s not as gory as the previous instalment, but there’s plenty of exploitation at play, regarding the very attractive female cast members, which, depending on your stance on sexism, may render the film abhorrent. Indeed, it seems that Mr Rodriguez may have caught the pervies from time spent with Frank Miller, as there isn’t a beautiful lady in sight who isn’t exposing great quantities of navel and/or leg, which is all well and good for the red blooded male until you realise the bombshell with the leather cowboy chaps accompanying a black thong bikini is none other than the young girl from Spy Kids, at which point you feel like an old horny/confused perv yourself.
Be that as it may, the casting is bold and vast, featuring Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson, Walton Goggins, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr, Antonio Banderas, Tom Savini and William Saddler, on top of many of the players from the first flick and a host of beautiful ladyfolk. As with Steven Seagal in Machete, Gibson plays it straight as an arrow, which is quite the feat considering how mental the film has become by the time he’s made his entrance, and he is absolutely standout.
The FX are intermittently fantastic and terrible, sometimes on purpose and sometimes, one could suspect, otherwise, which as a description also applies to the narrative. Other crafts such as set design and costumes are 100% purposefully gaudy or crap.
Machete Kills is a hard one to call. On a personal level I found it to be entirely entertaining and more than a little fun, but on the larger scale it’s pretty clear than anyone who disliked the first film will find nothing to like about this follow up, further, the extremes that Machete Kills goes to may actually polarise the pre-existing fans, marginalising the fan base even further.
C grade – for storytelling
B+ grade – for action
C grade – for visuals
B+ grade – for fun
Overall grade – B-