Saturday 21 June 2014

Film Catch-Up: Machete Kills

Usually I try to cover either new/upcoming films, films seen at film festivals or older and more obscure ones. But sometimes I also like to cover some which do not fit into any of these categories, films that I have missed at the cinema and caught up on Blu-Ray, if I feel strongly about (or against!) them. Such is the case with Machete Kills (the latter in this particular case).

For a film that started as a joke and was made from a fake trailer, Machete was a pleasant surprise, which a second viewing more than confirmed. It had fun with its Grindhouse tribute concept, but was also surprisingly sweet and engaging with its welcome social undertone and some great and strong female characters.

Unfortunately Machete Kills ruins everything by dispensing of all that made the first film so great. To avoid repeating itself, Robert Rodriguez had the intriguing idea of mixing the original's grindhouse elements with a tribute to low budget 60's/70's B movies and even the James Bond films of the late 70's/early 80's (in fact a lot of the plot is directly borrowed from Moonraker).

Except that it doesn't work at all. The fun gore of the first here comes across as repulsive when added to this unlikely mix. None of the characters are interesting in the slightest, and some of them are completely baffling and ultimately pointless, like the schizophrenic crime lord played by Demian Bichir. They come and go, with several famous faces turning up for largely pointless cameos. Only Antonio Banderas brought a smile to my face with a very amusing scene, and Lady Gaga is entertaining enough.

There is zero emotional involvement this time round because of the silly premise. Here Machete no longer fights alongside illegal immigrants, he is hired by the President of the United States to stop a madman who is threatening the world. Danny Trejo does not seem to care one bit, looking bored for most the film, like a trained animal asked to do the same routine over and over again. And for all its histrionic antics, the film is repetitive, tiresome, and seriously drags on.

The misogyny is all the more disappointing as the two female leads of the first played by Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez were such great characters. Here all the women are just crazy and merely added to the story only to be disposed of swiftly. And returning Michelle Rodriguez is left with too little to do. Only Mel Gibson shines, and when Mel Gibson is the best thing about your film, something has gone very wrong. There is also the bizarre decision to put the trailer of a fake threequel called Machete Kills Again In Space at the start of the film, which ruins any kind of surprise there might have been with the plot. Even worst is how this seems like a lot more fun than the film that follows. That is not to say I would want to watch it.

The worst thing is this sequel gives ammunition to those who intensely dislike trashy films and cannot see the heart under the tarted up, over the top facade. It is now high time for Machete to retire, and I am left wondering if Robert Rodriguez will even find his past glory again.

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