Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Movie Review: Machete Kills (2013)

The sequel to the 2010 film based on the fake Grindhouse trailer, Machete Kills stars Danny Trejo as ex-Federale agent turned legendary bad-ass Machete. After the death of his lover Sartana Rivera, Machete is recruited by the President of the United States to take down a crazy revolutionary and an eccentric billionaire arms dealer who has hatched a plan to spread war and chaos across the planet.

Now, time for some backstory. Back in 2007, I was lucky enough to see Grindhouse while it was still in theaters. While it wasn't a box office success, I loved every moment of it and hope that we can finally get a sequel to it someday (a man can dream, can't he?).

I remember seeing the fake Machete trailer before Planet Terror and wishing that it was a real film. Thankfully, the movie gods heard my wish and Robert Rodriguez turned the trailer into one of my favorite films of 2010. Machete was a loving homage to the exploitation films of the 1970's, embracing the goofiness that made those films enjoyable, but remembered to infuse just the right amount of heart and soul that made the best of those films memorable. So, it should be obvious that I was rather excited for this sequel, hoping that it would be just as fun as the first. Unfortunately, Machete Kills left me with very mixed emotions.

Like the first film, the acting is solid. Danny Trejo continues to be as bad-ass as before, showing the world why he deserves to be the star of his own action franchise. That grizzled appearance and "man of few words" personality really sells the tough nature of the character and makes you believe he'd be able to cause so much carnage and mayhem. The rest of the ensemble cast do decent jobs as well, with Demian Bichir as Mendez the crazy revolutionary with multiple personalities, Michelle Rodriguez as the one-eyed ass-kicker Luz, and Mel Gibson as the psychic arms dealer Voz being the obvious stand-outs.

Machete Kills also manages to take the insane level of violence from the first film and crank it up to 11. While the first film had its crazy moments, it was still grounded within some sense of reality. Machete Kills, however, leaves that grounded reality behind embraces the violent insanity. This is a movie where our main character uses a gun that turns people inside out and kills an enemy by cutting out his intestines and hurling them into a helicopter's blades, causing the man to be ripped up and chopped into pieces. There is just something morbidly hilarious about that and if you can accept that, you will find yourself laughing and smiling at the gleeful levels of violence.

Unfortunately, Machete Kills has two major problems that keep it from being a great film. The first film, for the most part, was a rather simple revenge story. Machete is hired to perform a job, but is betrayed and left for dead. Afterwords, he decided to track down those who were responsible and take out his vengeance on them. While there are a few additional elements and subplots to the story, the basic plot is rather straight-forward and structurally-sound. Machete Kills, on the other hand, seems like its trying so hard to be so many different things at once. It wants to be a 1980's action film, but it also wants to be a cheesy sci-fi film as well, with a good dose of Mad Max and Escape From New York in the middle. Because its trying to do a lot of things, Machete Kills stretches itself a little thin and the movie's structure suffers for it.

Secondly, Machete Kills' special effects are atrocious. The majority of the CGI effects look like something a 13-year old would create on Adobe After Effects instead of a movie with a $20 million dollar budget and a seasoned director at the helm. When the first film had some amazing practical effects and you have one of the best special effect artists in your movie (Tom Savini), its rather depressing to see such horrible CGI.

Machete Kills is a rather mixed bag. While the acting is solid and the action enjoyably over-the-top, the film isn't as well-structured as the original and the god awful effects weaken the film. If you can get past that terrible CGI and accept the film for what it is (a loud, insanely violent action film that tells reality to fuck off), you will find a lot to love about Machete Kills.

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