It’s always a bad sign while watching a movie when you realize the first three minutes are probably going to be the best moments the film can offer.
Machete Kills kicks off with a trashy trailer for a third Machete film – appropriately titled Machete Kills Again…In Space. The insane trailer shows audiences which characters have returned and what battles ensue, essentially giving away spoilers about the film you’re about to watch.
I had a genuine smile plastered across my face during this goofy introduction. It fits right in with the other trailers Grindhouse served to audiences back in 2007 and it warms movie goers up for a schlocky good time.
As the actual movie played out, director Robert Rodriguez was up to his old tricks that unnerve me.
The filmmaker does this thing where he claims to have an undying love for old grindhouse cinema and a hard wired dedication to bring that same freewheeling chaos to modern day movies. However, after its fleeting tongue-in-cheek trailer, the film loses its edge – and its cojones. Rodriguez drops any semblance to the homage he wishes to carry through on. This criticism is mainly aimed towards the lack of faith in the visual presentation – which drops all the grain, cigarette burns, and any other funky mishaps with the reels.
Instead, audiences are to endure a film that’s been intentionally made crummy that has also forgotten the irony of it all.
It’s a product that isn’t tributing anything. It’s just a poorly made action movie loaded with poorly designed, heavily CG’d blood and gore paired with a story that plods. It dances awfully close to being a smug, pretentious experiment that knows perfectly well what it’s doing – except how it’s wasting the audience’s time.
Machete Kills has random cameos and supporting actors who are there for the sake of sheer irrelevancy. While some performances don’t work (Lady Gaga’s noisy and profane recklessness and Antonio Banderas’ scene chewing), some of these actors actually have the last laugh.
Mel Gibson and Cuba Gooding Jr. return to the big screen as baddies and give better performances than Rodriguez’s film deserves. The performances are campy, but both actors competently realize how much cheese they need to lay on. And, both make charismatic villains to boot. Their screen presence is throughly interesting.
By now, the Machete character is becoming a bit of an old hat. There’s no surprises anymore, the spontaneity in Machete’s persona is gone, and Danny Trejo (who, I think, realizes this too) sleepwalks his way through the clatter. No matter what Kyle Ward’s screenplay thinks of to try and make Machete or this universe funny or interesting just reeks of desperation.
Robert Rodriguez sees something in the Machete stories that’s worth telling. At first, I thought his fascination was with the film’s Mexican backdrop; since he’s Mexican himself. But, a lot of the Mexican characters (especially Damian Bichir’s annoying, cackling criminal mastermind) bathe in loud shrieks and stereotypes. It’s hard to find humour or enjoyment in something that feels so self-loathing.
I’ve been a wavering fan of Robert Rodriguez as of late. That said, although I had issues with Machete’s first unmemorable solo outing, it entertained me. This grating instalment feels like the filmmaker is playing a game that should’ve ended a while ago. Everyone has packed it in, but Robert insists on staying in the sandbox and playing with his action figures.
Machete Kills may please Rodriguez, but some of us are getting too old for this.