Rated: Machete Kills (2013)

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The original Machete film was based on a fake trailer that Robert Rodriguez had directed for the Grindhouse/Terror Planet double feature. Therefore, Rodriguez had only a few shots and a general premise with which to base his feature film on. The resulting product had a story that was able to connect the dots, but the end product as a whole wasn’t really as satisfying as its parts. For the sequel, Rodriguez doesn’t have a trailer or anything else to base his film on. Therefore, in order to heed to tradition and give his new film at least some purpose for existing, Rodriguez makes another trailer. This one is for the next Machete film. That film is supposed to take place after this one, and by presenting it to the audience as a “preview”, Rodriguez gives Machete Kills some sort of plot; fill in everything that has happened as a lead up to that next film.

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Beyond achieving this purpose, there isn’t much additional effort put into the writing. I’m willing to overlook the absurdity and the goofiness as necessary in order for me to buy into the premise even remotely, but everything is too haphazard and rushed. This film tries to pen the titular character as some sort of Mexican James Bond, racing from locale to locale in order to save the world from a nuclear war caused by mentally ill criminals and a greedy technology tycoon. The characters in this film tend to come and go, with only a few of them sticking around the whole time. Furthermore, Rodriguez tries to cram in as many big-name actors as he can to fill these roles (including one role played by four different actors) as an effort to make up for their limited amount of screen time. Unfortunately, these actors are playing their roles with uneven levels of ham, and the fact that some of them seem to be taking this way too seriously diminishes the film’s charm somewhat.

The approach may be a little unorthodox, but the execution is classic Rodriguez. Like in the original film, Rodriguez borrows some silliness from his Spy Kids films and mixes it with the violence and vulgarity of Sin City. The end result is a rather ridiculous result with each scene seemingly trying to entertain you separately. The big picture isn’t as satisfying as the parts that make it, especially with a cliff hanger ending that seems to hack off the climax of the film. Furthermore, this is one of those films where the phrase “leave your brain at the theater door” definitely applies, as that grey matter will only get in the way of your enjoyment. That is, as long as you consider an unusually high number of decapitations and scantily clad women as entertainment.

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Story: Machete is an ex-Federale agent whose partner/lover gets killed during a weapon sale bust. To avenge this death, he agrees to go on a mission when recruited by the President of the United States. He travels into Mexico to find the crazy criminal known as Mendez. Mendez is blackmailing the US with a nuclear missile, which will launch if he is killed. Machete must kidnap Mendez and bring him back to the US in order to get the launch trigger diffused. However, the opposition isn’t as clear as it first seemed, and Machete has even more powerful enemies trying to stop him than before. Will he make it out of Mexico alive and save the world, or are the odds stacked against him? Bad (3.5/10)

Acting: Danny Trejo resumes his role as the main hero. He doesn’t play the role too seriously and that is what makes it entertaining. Demian Bichir plays the psychotic Mendez, and makes perhaps the best character of the film. His performance is wacky, but he gives the film an attitude that no one else is really able to. Sofia Vergara plays a man-eating head of a brothel, trying her best to kill Machete. Vergara is up to the task for the absurdity that the role requires, but her character isn’t really that important and is brushed aside by the end of the film. Mel Gibson plays a rich technology tycoon, and although he shows flashes of his former acting prowess, his performance here feels forced and stiff, resulting in a character that isn’t as fun as he should be. Amber Heard plays an undercover government operative and simply smothers whatever scene she is in, which ends up being pretty annoying. Michelle Rodriguez plays Machete’s ally, and feels too serious for the film. There’s a weird multi-faceted character played by Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas. This character doesn’t really work at all, thanks to the uneven performances of the actors playing him/her. Goggins does OK, but Gooding Jr. can’t quite reach the level of cheese that is required, while Banderas puts on too much and Gaga feels out of her league. The rest of the cast will have a few familiar faces but because of how many other big characters there are in this film, they don’t have much to do. Bad (4.5/10)

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Direction: Robert Rodriguez’s direction doesn’t give the audience a reason to suspect that much effort was involved.  Overall the film feels like a hack job as it lacks cohesion and a sense of purpose. The film is paced such that it is constantly moving, and there is never a moment for reflection. Subtlety is nowhere to be found, as Rodriguez is playing for the outrageous at the expense of making the audience care about what they are watching. He does well with a low budget and although some of the film looks cheesy, the somewhat goofy tone makes it acceptable. One issue is that there too may close-up shots. These are used to reduce the quantity and scale of special effects required, but in doing so makes the film feel amateurish. Rodriguez struggles to find a way to make all the characters relevant. He also struggles in getting consistent performances from his actors. In all, Rodriguez fails to make his film captivating or at least interesting despite many opportunities to do so. Bad (3.5/10)

Special Effects/X-Factor: As mentioned previously, the special effects are pretty cheesy, but that’s okay. There is a lot of violence and gore, and having the effects look rather fake makes the film easier to watch. There are some action sequences, and although the laws of physics are forgotten, they are generally entertaining as long as you can appreciate the level of absurdity. However, beyond the absurdity with which this film attacks its audience, there really isn’t anything else to make it worth watching. It isn’t that clever, there aren’t many laugh-out-loud moments, and the action is too cheesy to be entertaining by itself. All of this combines to make the film feel very unnecessary. Rodriguez and company are clearly having fun making it, but they didn’t do a good enough job translating that fun to the audience. Bad (4.5/10)

4

·         What’s Good: Lots of obnoxious violence and sexuality for guys to enjoy, lots of amusing silly moments, big-name actors by the boatful.

·         What’s Bad: The film lacks purpose, proper pacing, consistent acting, consistent directing, thoughtful coherence, and above all, common sense. 

 

Verdict: Everyone involved has done much better work than this.