Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Machete Kills (2013)

Machete Kills (2013)

Back in 2007, filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino collaborated on Grindhouse, a double-feature love letter to the exploitation films of the '70s that had served as both directors' chief inspiration growing up. And it was awesome. Not only was it two very fun feature-length films for the price of one, but it came with a slew of fake trailers for similar films, each from a different director. For instance, Edgar Wright made the Hammer horror parody Don't, Rob Zombie made the self-explanatory Werewolf Women of the SS, Eli Roth contributed the graphic slasher film Thanksgiving, and lastly, Rodriguez came up with Machete, a parody of blaxploitation that swapped out black anger at The Man keeping brothas down with Latino anger over immigration politics. While Grindhouse only went on to become a cult hit, the Machete trailer sparked enough curiosity for Rodriguez to actually go and make a full movie in 2010. And it too was awesome. Not only was it just as bloody and ridiculous as its trailers suggested, but its unsubtle righteous anger about its subject matter elevated it to the level of other message-filled action flicks like Red Dawn, the Rambo films, and Shaft. It's certainly not for everyone, but those who it was for made it a bigger hit than Grindhouse had been, and sho 'nuff a sequel was soon in the works.

Titled Machete Kills, this film is a classic case of sequelitis, but is still an enjoyable parody of grindhouse action movies if you're willing to give it a chance. However, I qualify that statement by noting that your enjoyment of this film depends largely on how much you expect movies to make a lick of sense. The plot here is utter nonsense, characters come and go with little warning or explanation, big names make brief cameos and then disappear, and the chief villain, Mel Gibson's evil industrialist Luther Voz, only makes his presence known in the third act. The whole film feels like an excuse for Rodriguez to indulge in every crazy fantasy he's ever dreamed of putting on celluloid over the last twenty years of his career, and it's that unpredictability that is both the film's greatest strength and its undoing. If I must compare this film to anything, it's Saints Row IV, the Grand Theft Auto sendup that featured gangstas battling space aliens. The plot ends on a blatant cliffhanger with Voz getting away on board his spaceship, the film feeling like a setup to a third act that never arrives. Mind you, the journey there is highly entertaining, but by the time I got to the end I felt a little cheated.

Fortunately, the preceding two acts helped to take some of the sour taste out of my mouth. Like I said, this is a film that runs on pure nonsensium, and that extends to the action as much as the plot. Machete swings on the end of a helicopter rotor with his trademark weapon out, decapitating everyone who comes near the chopper. Machete overturns a boat and chops up some goons with the propellers. He gets in a chase with him driving a Star Wars landspeeder because it's awesome, that's why. Ray guns are used to disintegrate people -- very graphically. Charlie Sheen (credited here by his real name, Carlos Estevez) is the President of the United States. It is here where the Saints Row IV comparison feels most justified, as rarely has a film so knowingly thrown reality, common sense, and the fourth wall to the wind as much as Machete Kills does. It doesn't hit the mark as much as the game did, but when it's on, it still had me rolling in my seat. None of the cast really stretches themselves -- Danny Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez as badasses, Amber Heard as a sexpot, Charlie Sheen Carlos Estevez as a womanizer, Mel Gibson as a crazy person -- but they were all having fun with this flick. Perhaps impressing me the most, though, was Mexican actor Demian Bichir as Mendez, the ostensible villain of the first hour of the film, a revolutionary with a split personality who sometimes reverts back to his former crazy-ass drug lord self. He shows a great deal of range playing both the compassionate revolutionary and the psychotic "Mendez the Madman", and it'd be a shame if this film's poor box office performance hurts his American career.

Score: 3 out of 5

It's not for everyone, and it ends on a poor note, but for most of the ride it is a balls-to-the-wall gonzo action film. If you're into "grindhouse-style" movies, then check this out. Seriously. It could use some more money right about now.

No comments:

Post a Comment