17 October 2013


I haven't gone looking for other reviews of Machete Kills yet, but it's tough to imagine a positive review that's more than just a list of cool things worth seeing in this movie. I'm sure there's one out there, but there's a temptation to just go, "Danny Trejo electrocutes a bad guy using himself as a conductor!" or "Ooh, and then they bazooka'd the guy in the wheelchair" to such an extent that you describe all the cool bits and leave out the more exhaustive aspects.

Such as it is, the plot of Robert Rodriguez's Mexploitation sequel finds everyone's favourite diminutive federale being recruited by US President Rathcock, (played by "newcomer" Carlos Estevez) to save the world from the apocalyptic plans of a madman called Mendez. He's threatening to start a nuclear world war, unless the United States invades Mexico and cleans up the drug problem. Sore from the recent loss of his partner, Machete goes on a bat-shit insane mission to prevent armageddon, fending off clones, bordello mistresses, and a clairvoyant industrialist named Voz along the way.

This sequel plays more like one of Rodriguez's Spy Kids movies, with more blood, tits and swearing. Case in point- grown-up Spy Kid Alexa Vega spends the whole film chasing our hero with an Uzi, wearing a bikini and arseless chaps. She looks more grown up, but that doesn't mean that hers is an especially mature representation. The film itself carries on in much the same way, and it's telling that I was reminded more of Rodriguez's movies for children than of the 70s grindhouse vein from which it originated.

There's also a departure in tone for this pastiche, which seems much more reminiscent of Roger Moore's tenure as James Bond, and in particular, of Moonraker. Although Rodriguez seems to think that much of the humour comes from combining Danny Trejo's Machete with the 007 style of espionage, it's far funnier to see the film's real secret agent surrogate, Demián Bichir, having a whale of a time as Mendez. He's essentially Bond gone mad, and prances between the poles of protagonist and antagonist with the glee of someone who's really not used to having this much fun in a film.

The Bond villain and Big Bad of the piece is Mel Gibson, simultaneously giving his first performance as a villain and his most enjoyable and charismatic performance in some time. His Voz suggests the future of Gibson's career in action movies, and that's as a villain. That's certainly the way The Expendables 3 is going, but you have to wonder if Sylvester Stallone will have the poor taste to give him some of the dialogue he has here- it's almost as nasty and insane as some of the stuff Gibson has come out with in real life, since his alcohol-fuelled heel turn and career decline.

Unfortunately, Voz arrives around the time that the film has fully worn out its welcome. Like Machete, Machete Kills feels like it's about an hour too long. It gets to where you wonder whether Rodriguez is fantastic at mimicking the choppy editing, shitty special effects and bonkers erratic storytelling of the grindhouse genre, or if it's actually accidental. To give credit only where it's due, I have to say that I was astonished to see the film pass the Bechdel test, in a scene where Amber Heard and Michelle Rodriguez face off. The film harbours a rampant, borderline-misogynistic disinterest in female characters, beyond their bodies, but the likes of when the likes of Star Trek Into Darkness can't meet that standard, and this one does, something is rotten in the state of Hollywood.

However, the final ten minutes really hammers home how the film has become progressively less enjoyable. Given how incidental the story is, it's quite surprising, and all the more unforgivable, that the ending winds up evoking Joss Whedon's recent criticism of The Empire Strikes Back, as the stage is set for a third film, lampooning Star Wars. This is even teed up right at the very beginning of the film, but seeing that unfold over the course of the film is like a joke taken too far. Much like Alexa Vega's character and attire, that could very much sum up the film all by itself.

As has become standard for Robert Rodriguez, Machete Kills starts out with the best will in the world, and earns a lot of leeway just for being an independent film by a director who's doing exactly what he wants, but becomes stale. Ultimately, it over-runs by quite a bit, becoming longer rather than crazier or more enjoyable. The relatively low budget, and the apparent interest of actors like Bichir, Gibson and the rest of the starry cast, means that Machete probably will kill, again, in space, just as the film promises. While the first film went for some surprisingly potent social satire, this one is merely a piecemeal of admittedly cool scenes. While that may be more enjoyable in parts, it tires much more quickly.

Machete Kills is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Machete Kills, why not share your comments below? Seriously, this is the most egregious "Look at dem tittays" movie in some time, and it still does better on the Bechdel test than most family-friendly tentpole movies? Sort it out!

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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