- Leeth named UAB School of Medicine assistant dean for strategic planning
- Coping with holiday grief
- New water plan saves big money
- Campus police offer holiday safety tips
- Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago
- Hospital feeds underprivileged new moms
- UAB’s Alys Stephens Center presents Yo-Yo Ma Dec. 6
- Southern Miss tops Blazers, 62-27, in season ending game
- Henry Panion selected for 2014 Alabama African-American History Calendar
- Enjoy Christmas at the Alys Dec. 2, “The Season’s First Jingle”
- Engineering’s Ning wins ASTM International award
- Collat School of Business unveils sign at celebration
- Heudebert elected master by American College of Physicians
- Anti-aging strategies can improve more than looks
- On campus ‘blackout’ taken in stride
Mark’s Movies: Machete Kills
You really got to hand it to writer/director Robert Rodriguez. The guy is nothing if not consistent in his intentions. From the very beginning, his films have been made by a kid at heart- if not always for the kids themselves, in many cases. After all, this is a guy who took an idea his seven year-old son had and made it into a movie! Granted, the movie wasn’t that good (The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D), but you can’t blame him for trying.
His movies are filled with over-the-top imagery, often shot and edited by Rodriguez himself that come off like someone channeling their inner twelve-year-old. From his signature, establishing trilogy of El Mariachi to the fun, imaginative Spy Kids series, to the grittier fare of films like Sin City and From Dusk Till Dawn, Rodriguez always seems like a kid allowed to run wild in a candy store, for better or worse.
Granted, his films may lack a certain gravitas overall, but you can’t blame the guy for wanting to show moviegoers a good time. After all, isn’t that why many of us go to the movies in the first place- to escape reality, not confront it? Rodriguez’s films are nothing if not pure escape, occasionally to their own detriment.
His latest, Machete Kills, is a perfect example of this aesthetic. Much like Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, trying to make the word “fetch” happen, Rodriguez is hell-fire determined to make grindhouse cinema happen, no matter what the cost. Machete began life as a faux trailer shown with his and writer/director Quentin Tarantino’s B-movie blow-out, Grindhouse, before rapturous fan reaction led him to actually make the movie for real. (For an overview on Grindhouse-style cinema, see my article here!)
Released in 2010, the $10 million budget film was a modest success, raking in some $44 million worldwide, so Rodriguez is back with another installment, the next in a proposed trilogy, Machete Kills. Fans of the original will find plenty to like here, with the added attraction of more star power than you can shake a Swiss-army machete at. (Yes, the film features one of those, but of course.)
Indeed, the film often plays like the “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” of exploitation flicks (or for my younger audiences, something like Around the World in 80 Days or Rat Race). By which I mean the cast is wall-to-wall with the likes of- deep breath- Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Antonio Banderas, Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family), William Sadler (Iron Man 3), Walton Goggins (Justified), Alexa Vega (a long way from the Spy Kids movies), Demián Bichir (Weeds), Amber Heard (Paranoia), Lady Gaga (!), and Charlie Sheen- excuse me, Carlos Estévez (his actual real name, used for the first time here)- as…wait for it…the President of the United States. If that cast didn’t get your attention, I can’t imagine this is the film for you.
As it stands, like those aforementioned films, Machete Kills occasionally plays a bit like a cameo-fest, but it’s still a fun one. I mean, if the sight of Vergara with a machine gun-equipped breastplate doesn’t make you smile, then you’re probably going to want to skip this one. Some performances are better than others, to be sure, with Bichir in particular nailing his over-the-top role of a schizophrenic secret agent/psychotic dictator- and yes, to call anything over-the-top in a movie that’s all about being over-the-top is saying something.
Also worth a mention is Heard as Machete’s handler, who also doubles as a beauty pageant contestant. I’m a huge fan of hers, yet it seems like Hollywood never knows what to do with her at any given moment, resulting in one horrific bomb after another. Rodriguez, on the other hand, gets that she was born for something like this, as clearly evident in the likes of the underrated Drive Angry and especially the long-withheld All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which finally got a wide-ish release this year, making Heard quite possibly the first actress to have films simultaneously in the theaters made when she was just out of her teens and almost in her thirties!
Rodriguez also finds time for returning players Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez (no relation), and special effects legend Tom Savini, among others, from the first film; along with, naturally, Machete himself, Danny Trejo, in the role he was born to play. The plot is beside the point, really, but it’s nonetheless a bit needlessly convoluted, but I suppose that’s part of the joke, as the franchise is kind of like a Latin spin on the James Bond films, only way trashier, and I mean that as a compliment.
Most of the celebrity cameos are so brief none of them make much of an impression, but it is fun seeing Gaga run amuck (one might say she was born for this, wah-wah) and though he shockingly underplays things a bit, Gibson is a perfect villain, as a madman who’s equal parts George Lucas (note the hovercraft) and Steve Jobs. This aspect of the film also sets up the third installment, Machete Kills…in Space! which gets its own hilarious trailer, both before and after the movie.
Be sure and stay put through the credits for some bonus amusing Sheen and Heard moments, the latter of which gets some of the best lines in the film, period. Heard really does knock her part out of the park, and I hope she decides to do more things of this nature, given that mainstream film doesn’t seem to agree with her. Also worth a mention, the line: “Machete don’t tweet”- this film’s extension of the immortal “Machete don’t text.” You gotta love it, and Trejo’s always deadpan, all-of-the-time delivery.
Make no mistake; this isn’t the type of film that’s going to win any awards, save maybe the likes of a “Scream” statuette (as in Spike TV’s bro-tastic award show for genre flicks), but it’s not meant to. Rodriguez simply wants to show like-minded viewers a good time, and in that, he succeeds. Try and see it with a wild crowd, late at night, exactly the type of crowd this was made for. Machete Kills might not be Oscar bait, but it’s a fun ride, to be sure. I give it a solid B+.