Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Machete Kills

There's a thin line between "homage" and "parody".  Robert Rodriquez, never a director known for subtlety, was actually able to walk down that line rather well in the original "Machete".  That was a movie that was never made to be serious, clearly, it starred a sixty-year-old background actor from every Mexican crime movie made in the last twenty years, Danny Trejo, who appears to be physically incapable of making a face other than pure anger.  But it was clever, it was fun, and while jumping out of the rails at nearly every second, it still was reasonably grounded within its own stylized reality.  Machete is the world's first Mexican superhero, battling Conservative reactionary anti-immigration forces with a long pointy piece of metal.  Even people unaware of "Machete"'s roots in terrible politically-conscious 70s B-movies could appreciate it as a fun movie playing up a silly concept.

The original "Machete" ended promising two sequels:  "Machete Kills" and "Machete Kills Again".  At the time, riding on the Mexican high of Danny Trejo kicking Stephen Seagal's ass, I was down for it.  Having actually seen "Machete Kills", its obvious to me that Machete was a gag with a limited lifespan, and now the joke is already old.  "Machete Kills" is a movie full of several dozen ridiculous concepts that sound hilarious on paper, but actually aren't that great in execution.  Like, an avenging bordello madam that fights with Fembot weapons.  Just writing that sentence brought a smile to my face.  Then you cast the actress, you film it, then stuff it in an movie featuring President Charlie Sheen, a maniac Mexican Bond Villain, Mel Gibson trying to start a space empire, and Lady Gaga, then suddenly its not very funny anymore.  Its just confusing and stupid.

"Machete Kills" is a movie with atrocious writing, bad acting, confusing structure, and special effects so bad that Robert Rodriguez probably should have hid behind the "Alan Smithee" pseudonym.  But then its defense is "yeah, I'm trying to be a terrible movie, laugh at me".  Sorry no.  There's being fun and goofy and roping the audience along for the ride, and then there's going out of your way to be purposefully awful.  I can't laugh at bad special effects or bad dialog when I know they were made that way on purpose.  Or that the director obviously knows how to do a better movie and just isn't trying.

Robert Rodriguez has always been a director to bring a level of ridiculous camp to all of his films, and that's part of his charm.  He's the man who brought to the screen machine gun-guitars, Tom Savini's penis gun, and pretty much all of the entire Spy Kids franchise.  But as ridiculous as he's gotten, his filmography all feels like movies.  Except, of course, for "Planet Terror", which I hated.  Rodriguez is usually pushing the limits and adding fun, he's not wallowing in self-parody, and even more pathetically, adding self-references to his previous films.  Tom Savini's penis gun comes back in "Machete Kills", for no reason other than to have a call-back.  "Machete Kills" is like a lazier "Planet Terror".

So this is the kind of movie where is the President curses in every sentence and is played by Charlie Sheen.  The dialog is peppered with curse words, so it sounds like it was a movie written by a twelve-year-old who just discovered "Pulp Fiction".  Is it just poorly-written or is it self-aware and trying to be poorly-written and juvenile?  Then when the violence is ultra-bloody and ridiculous, but it has no weight or purpose.  Again, like a twelve-year-old made it.  But somehow, no tits.  No nudity at all.  Sorry, Robert Rodriguez, I can see right through your facade right there.  At least nudity is something I could have appreciated on a proper primal level, no matter how ironic.

"Machete Kills" is also a movie with awful production values.  You have a good director, there is a lot of talent on screen here.  Then Robert Rodriguez lowers himself to throwing out Asylum-level special effects.  There is CG gunfire and blood splatter and effects that may be the worst goddamn stuff I have ever seen in theaters.  And as far as I can tell, the special effects aren't getting played for laughs, its just they went for the worst effects they could find.  Guys get their arms chopped off, and it looks completely unbelievable, but the movie isn't using the bad effects as a gag, it cuts away in shame.  Tom Savini, the greatest horror monster effects artist of all time, has a cameo in this film where he gets killed by a gun that rips its victims insideout.  Now you'd expect a bloody, wonderful, practical-effect lingering shot of gore all over the place.  Nope.  Crappy CG, camera cuts away in a second, this is awful.  I don't care what fucking* level of irony you're working on, you make a movie like "Machete Kills" you're asking for a new career.  There are some poor bastards who have to trudge their way through SciFi channel shark movies because that's all the work they can get, and then Robert Rodriguez could summon the entire might of Hollywood industry, and instead chooses to make a shitty movie out of cuteness.

What's bizarre is that even in this circus of people simply not caring, actually a few performances manage to come off positively.  Michelle Rodriguez continues her role as the revolutionary She without a single wink, she's playing it straight.  Danny Trejo keeps on his 100% Angry Mexican Man act because that is the only thing he can do as an actor.  But even he's submerged by the nonsense, he's barely a supporting role.  A Mexican revolutionary terrorist Bond Villain played by Demian Bichir actually manages to be crazy and insane, while still grounded enough to be charismatic.  Forget fucking Machete, make a movie about Demian Bichir's character.  And Mel Gibson as the main villain is fantastic.  The rest of the cast is too busy winking or are just overwhelmed by limited screentime to actually make an impact.  Its just such a bloated movie, if there had only been two or three ridiculous super assassins to fight rather than 700, it might have remained compelling.  Did we learn nothing from the mistakes of "The Man With the Iron Fists"?  I guess not.

The worst actor though, has to be Charlie Sheen, whose appearance in this film is already a huge meta-joke.  "Hey look, its Charlie Sheen, he's such a silly human being, please laugh".  Its just as desperate a joke as having Lady Gaga appear in a cameo, for no reason other than its Lady Gaga.  This is starting to feel like a Friedberg and Seltzer movie, where famous stars simply walk in and we're supposed to laugh because its Lady Gaga in Mexico.  Charlie Sheen, however, is still playing his two-year-old schtick of drugged-out crazy dude.  Only the joke is now long dead, because we as a society were laughing because we all knew it how it was supposed to end:  with him dying of a drug overdose or completely collapsing.  Watching somebody's career self-destruct when it never seems to actually end isn't funny.  And neither is a movie that was designed to be awful.

Here's the conclusion:  fuck irony.  "Machete Kills" is awful.  Occasionally it will actually manage to be funny by managing to find the right combination of stupid and awesome, such as Machete apparently being immune to strangulation because all it does is make him angrier.  Or everything that Mel Gibson and Demian Bichir bring to the adventure.  But most of the time its two hours of bad.  Bad writing, bad actor, bad special effects, bad everything.  I came into this movie ready for a fun south of the border siesta, instead I got crappy Tequila and diarrhea.  And a headache.  The film threatens a third part to the Machete franchise, called "Machete Kills Again ...In Space".  But I don't care how pulpy you get, I'm not falling for this again.

* And that's how expletives are supposed to be used.  Not every fucking sentence.  What is the motherfucking cockwhoring slutsucking point of using the F-word all the fucking time other than to make yourself look like a shitlicking retard?


  1. Blue I could never sit through a movie like this, there just isn't any pont to it.

  2. Good review. A bunch of fun, especially if you know what to expect from Rodriguez and his style.