By Thomas Cowley
The newest exploitative, violence filled gore fest Machete Kills, from director Robert Rodriguez (Sin City, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) asks a lot from its audience in many respects. It asks that we ignore physics, logic, absurdity, and its corny dialogue right from the word go. And that is not necessarily a bad thing if that is the intended goal, which in this case it certainly is. The problem that Machete Kills suffers from is a complete lack of tension and dramatic conflict. I will hold off on exactly what makes this so because it is a very mild spoiler until the end for those who care enough to read it through.
Machete Kills is very much a niche movie and it knows that. Everything in the movie is pushed to the absurd and the ridiculous because it is not trying to take itself seriously in any way. But it does this because it is meant to be as much of a parody as it is a genuine grindhouse action flick. The violence, gore, scantily clad women, and explosions all play into the exact kind of movie this wants to be, and like any good grindhouse movie, it embraces all the crazy. But just because it is exactly what it is trying to be, does not necessarily mean that it is good.
Even when the movie embraces its crazy nature, there are still aspects that are groan worth, or at the least should be taken into account. While the budget is relatively low for Hollywood, coming in at about 20 million, the effects in the film look rather poor. Not all of them mind you, in fact one gun specifically looks rather cool, but many scene use poor CGI or effects that are of low quality even for a lower budget film. The dialogue subscribes to the school of thought that excessive cursing is an acceptable substitute for humor, which some may like and others will be turned off by. Many of the plot points are unconnected, or rather, are so flimsily connected that they seem thrown in there just to add more crazy characters, to the point that none of them really stand out amongst each other.
But the biggest problem with the movie as I said is the lack of tension throughout. I will throw up a SPOILER here for those who care enough. The movie opens up with a trailer for a Machete sequel, which is in fact the real Machete sequel. This part is funny, but as the movie goes on and plot details unfold, you realize that you have already seen the trailer for the next film. It actually shows some of the characters who live through the movie you are watching, completely removing all tension and conflict. You already know how this will play out. You already know who will make it through to the next one. We’ve skipped to the end of the book and skimmed the next one, so any and all dramatic moments we see fall completely flat because we know how this will end. Had they saved this for the end, then things might have been different, and even garnered some deserved hype for the next installment.
If you are completely in love with this type of deliberately bad, guilty pleasure movie, or if you love the character of Machete, or Rodriguez’s other work, then you can have fun with this one. Sadly however, it requires you to play dumb like the characters a bit too much and ultimately looses all the weight behind the twists and plot details because it gave away the ending before the movie had even started.