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Machete Kills

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Scott Roberts
Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 1:16:33 pm

Premise: I'm not sure what I was thinking going to see this movie? I guess I kind of felt obliged to for some reason. It certainly didn't look very good in the commercials. But ya know, I enjoyed the first Machete somewhat, and I think (?) I support the modern grindhouse resurrection genre. Though, now that I think about it, nothing much comes to mind that's good about this genre, except, maybe... Grindhouse itself? Hmmmm... Wait, I liked Hobo With a Shotgun and Black Dynamite, too. But that's only three movies. Maybe this whole concept wasn't such a great idea after all...? Especially if we've appointed the main figure to make these movies to be Robert Rodriguez.


-Seeing Mel Gibson ride around in Luke Skywalker's land-speeder was an amusingly silly shot. In fact, Mel Gibson was probably the *only* cast member to bring something interesting to the table.

-The inside-out gun was a cool weapon, I guess. However, the CGI used to turn people inside-out was not.

-Seeing Danny Trejo as an astronaut *would* have been funny, if the 100 minutes of terrible footage before it hadn't already killed a part of my soul.

-The guy sitting in the row behind me fell asleep and started snoring for the last 40 minutes of the movie. It was one of the few times I've ever laughed at audience noise. Because it was appropriate.


-Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga, Vanessa Hudgens... It's like an all-star cast of people you don't want to see in a movie!

-You don't name a movie "Machete Kills", with that kind of a cast, and have it be any longer than 80 minutes. This went on 25 minutes longer than that. And it FELT like three hours.

-So, uh, Sofia Vergara is really annoying, huh? Also, her character just sort of disappears, for some reason? And she shoots guns out of her boobies (hahahaha! boobies!), and also uses a strap-on crotch gun Hahah- wait, Robert Rodriguez already used that gag in From Dusk Til Dawn... Now he's just stealing things from his old movies? Oh geez, Michelle Rodriguez is crying blood from a missing eyeball. Rodriguez totally did that in Once Upon a Time in Mexico already! The only thing missing was a guitar gun.

-I found it very annoying how every other person in the movie pronounced Machete's name Mah-CHET-ayyyy.

-No one in the screening I was at really laughed at any of the jokes throughout the whole movie. Except *one* guy, who chuckled at all of Charlie Sheen's jokes. Keep on "Winning!", sir. KEEP ON WINNING.

-I think Robert Rodriguez needs to realize that there's a very big difference between creating strong female characters, and having chicks in bikinis shoot machine guns. Just because they're mowing down dudes, doesn't mean they have character development that goes past "HURRR HURRR HURRR LOOK AT THAT CLEAVAGE SHAKE WHEN SHE SHOOTS THEM THERE BIG GUNS. WOOO HOOOO!" Come to think of it, I don't know if I've ever seen a movie that has literally zero character development in any character. UNTIL NOW.

-Putting artificial film grain and scratches over heavily green-screened, terribly shot digital video looks... how do I say it... obnoxiously stupid? Yeah, that sounds about right.

-What's wrong with squibs? Squibs rule. Rodriguez continues to refuse to use anything other than CGI blood. And it makes the whole thing look like a SyFy Channel production.

-I have to tell you about the weirdest, dumbest joke in the entire movie. So Machete gets shot or whatever, and he is getting patched up by this doctor, who is getting introduced to us for the first time. And while he's getting a bandage put on him, the doctor says "Please excuse me if I smell. Did you know the average human passes gas fourteen times a day?" Then the doctor walks away. AND YOU NEVER SEE THAT CHARACTER AGAIN. It was just Robert Rodriguez's irresistible urge to force in an unnecessary fart joke for some reason. I was *almost* impressed with how randomly stupid it was.

-Near the end of the movie, Michelle Rodriguez gets frozen in carbonite a la Hans Solo, but she does it while HOLDING UP A MIDDLE FINGER! HA! TAKE THAT SOCIETY! A MIDDLE FINGER! YOU HEARD ME CORRECTLY, A MIDDLE FINGER! So... is Robert Rodriguez 12-years-old? Did he try to make a movie for 12-year-olds? It's rated R, so they can't even see it. Think about this... He actually went as far as to create and order a large prop for this movie of a carbonite Michelle Rodriguez, that he saw before he started shooting, still thought it was a funny idea, and proceeded to shoot the shot, and then leave it in the final edit. He is a 45-year-old man, who has shot fifteen feature films. I actually gave out an audible groan when I saw it on the screen.

-Now, as a 29-year-old man, I felt slightly dumb while asking the teenage theater employee "one ticket for Machete Kills, please." It's never a good sign when you feel embarrassed just for purchasing a ticket to a movie. I knew I should have just gotten a ticket for Metallica 3D instead...!

Final Thoughts: Machete Kills (easily a front-runner for the worst movie of the year) has made me look back at every Robert Rodriguez movie I've ever seen, and wonder if he's ever made a good movie that's actually stood the test of time? I used to really like Sin City, when I was a 20-year-old kid. I tried to watch it recently, or at least part of it, and I've just sort of grown out of it. I think the same thing can be said about From Dusk Til Dawn. That might have been his most well-made production, at least. Once Upon a Time in Mexico was alright. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a single person who would say that's one of their favorite movies. Planet Terror was entertaining, but that's because I liked Grindhouse as a whole at the time. Nowadays, if I rewatch anything regarding that production, I just put in Death Proof and leave it at that. What else is there? Desperado? I'd probably call you a liar if you claimed you remember anything about that movie other than Antonio Banderas shooting a dude with a guitar gun. As far as I'm concerned, that whole movie was just one scene. He made The Faculty, didn't he? That might have been watchable, but I haven't seen it in probably twelve years, and I barely remember it, outside of it being about alien teachers invading a high school. Let's not forget he's also made four Spy Kids movies, and also Shark Boy and Lava Girl. I honestly think the best thing Rodriguez has ever done, and the one that holds up best is his "Misbehavers" segment from Four Rooms. That segment is gold.

But damn, I think I'm officially anti-Robert Rodriguez at this point. What's the point of watching his stuff anymore? The guy is still making films at the same maturity level now that he was almost 20 years ago. If I may paraphrase Matthew McConaughey right now, "That's what I hate about these Robert Rodriguez movies, maaaan... I get older, and his developmental growth and artistic maturity stay the saaaaaaame aaaaaage... Hehe alllllllllriiiiiiiiiiiight."

Now let's all just pray to whatever god you see fit that Robert Rodriguez never *actually* makes Machete Kills Again in Space.

1.5 out of 10

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Mark Suszko
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 4:53:20 pm

You were expecting "My Dinner with Danny Trejo?". You do remember the franchise started with a fake trailer for a fake exploitation movie, right?

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Scott Roberts
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 5:51:44 pm

Well, I was hoping *at least* for something that wasn't boring. But this movie was a real test of patience. The one thing that's hard to argue against about the first Machete (and the original trailer) is that they at least keep the action moving. They are at least somewhat entertaining (if seeing exploitationy violence is your thing, which is kind of is for me). But Machete Kills was BOOOOOOOORING.

Also, "My Dinner with Danny Trejo" needs to get made now. You've planted the seed, Mark!

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Tim Wilson
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:33:27 pm

I need to point out a fantastic article with the colorist of Machete Kills, who also did five of RR's other movies, including Sin City. She's also done a ton of movies for other people, like The Life Aquatic with Steve Zisou. You'll really enjoy this, one of my favorite articles in a while.

Now then....

[Scott Roberts] "I'm not sure what I was thinking going to see this movie? I guess I kind of felt obliged to for some reason.... I was hoping *at least* for something that wasn't boring. "

I completely get it. Good cheesy movies are one of life's great pleasures.

They're also darn near impossible to deliver. We know that because it rarely happens. I think you can argue that nobody has ever been been better at it than Robert Rodriguez, in genre after genre.

El Mariachi: WATCH THE DVD, and listen to the commentary. Pretty much the whole thing is Robert pointing out every filmmaking mistake, every continuity error, and every ridiculous corner he had to cut. It's funny, self-deprecating, and actually a fantastic look at loooooow-budget filmmaking.

None of which would matter if the movie didn't deliver. It does. VERY entertaining.

Desperado is its "big budget" sequel ($7 million was astronomical compared to the $35,000 for El Mariachi!), and while not quite the giddy ride, showed that he has exceptional visual flair, as well as a boundless well of both humor and John Woo-fu violence. One of the great bar shoot-outs of all time, and some great gun gags.

Also an amazing cast: Banderas (way underrated), Hayek, Cheech, Buscemi, Tarantino (I like him as an actor), and DANNY TREJO, who I totally adore.

From Dusk To Dawn, working off a Tarantino script, got mixed reviews at the time, but I thought it was a hoot. Bank robbers, temper flares, gas station cashier shot, leading to kidnapping of witnesses -- oops wait, bank teller still imprisoned in the trunk of car, rape/murder ensues, flee to Mexican safe house...stopping along the way at....a bar full of vampires.

The rape removes the hoot factor for a good long while of course, and Tarantino's character is really, genuinely unhinged, not played at all for laughs. Nor for that matter are the vampires -- it's a long, ugly night until dawn, and much blood is shed.

This is actually a really good grindhouse movie -- not exactly winking, but not NOT winking...and largely there for the adrenaline. GOOD.

Phenomenal cast, even in the tiniest part. For example, John Hawkes is on screen barely long enough to get shot. Some of Rodriguez's regulars are on hand -- Buscemi, Cheech (I really do love this guy), DANNY TREJO (ditto), Hayek -- oh yeah, and FRED WILLIAMSON, aka Fred THE HAMMER Williamson. Unless you kids were watching blaxploitation pictures in the 70s, you might have missed him -- but he's done well over 100 pictures, directed a couple dozen, and produced a bunch more. What an unexpected pleasure to see him pop up!

Oh yeah, and Clooney, Keitel, and a razor-sharp Juliette Lewis. Nice cameos for blood/gore effects guys Tom Savini (the Zeus of the field) and Greg Nicotero, who's leading the zombie apocalypse on The Walking Dead.

Ace, ace stuff.

The Faculty is an all-but-forgotten gem. High school students including Elijah Wood and Usher (!!) come to believe that their teachers, including Famke Jannsen and Jon Stewart (!!!) are ALIENS. Which they of course are. I won't list the rest of the cast again, but it's once again top-notch in every role (although I have to mention Robert Patrick as the coach), and, with no rape or torture, an unapologetic piece of cheese. Fun, fun, fun, fun.

Spy Kids isn't GREAT great, but it's also a lot of fun. Any excuse to put Banderas together with Carla Gugino (crazy about her) is a good one, and the kids, especially Alexa Vega, are terrific.

All in all, tasty cheese.

Once Upon A Time in Mexico intentionally evokes Leone, and features the return of El Mariachi AND DANNY TREJO, as well as Johnny Depp, Micky Rourke, Hayek, Cheech, Dafoe, Rubén Blades (we were in college together...although he was destined for a career in Panama's politics after a smoking music career with some choice acting roles, and I was destined for...this), and Willem DaFoe.

Tasty, tasty cheese.

Perhaps the pinnacle of his hyper-stylized violence is his hyper-stylized Sin City, jointly directed with Frank Miller from his graphic novel series. INSANE cast once again, adding Rutger Hauer, Bruce Willis, and a crop of terrific young women including Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and Alexis Bleidel (from The Gilmore Girls and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants!!!).

Is it possible to overpraise this movie as a landmark in violent, gory noir? I think not.

So dude, barring two Spy Kids sequels (c'mon, those had to happen), Rodriguez had a run of nonstop winners from 1992-2005. How many people can claim a run that long? Not freaking many, that's who. Not Spielberg or Scorsese, that's for sure.

If ANYBODY has the chops and track record to deliver over-the-top violent, pulse-pounding gratuitous gore with high-style and huge entertainment values, it's Rodriguez. There's no reason why his movies shouldn't stick this landing dang near every time.

That's why, sure, it's disappointing if somebody else doesn't deliver. Few people can, or do. It's especially disappointing this time, because Rodriguez can, and has, again and again.

I'm sorry he didn't for you this time, but you had every reason to expect he would.

[Scott Roberts] "Also, "My Dinner with Danny Trejo" needs to get made now. "

They should do it as live theater, on Broadway. With Buscemi as the other diner? The possibilities are actually endless.

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Jeff Breuer
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:58:23 pm

[Tim Wilson] "They should do it as live theater, on Broadway. With Buscemi as the other diner? The possibilities are actually endless."

Where's the pre-order button? You guys should email him your ideas.

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Jeff Breuer
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 6:39:47 pm

You are not alone, I have heard a lot of other reviews say, "I KNOW it is supposed to be campy, but it's NOT entertaining." I wanted to see it, but now I just might pass.

I liked Desperado and Sin City, but for me the real charm of Rodriguez was his pioneering. Bed Head, El Mariachi, his 10 Minute Film Schools on his DVDs and Rebel Without A Crew will be the his true legacy. I think the new digital era brought him a second wave with 3D, Sin City and his other slick ways of bringing a big punch on a small budget.

Yesterday I had a conversation about Hitchcock and how he kept himself on the top of his game after a very long career by challenging himself with each project. After North By Northwest, he did Psycho on a shoestring budget and then he did The Birds without a sound track. Maybe Rodriguez should take a break and try a romantic comedy or a movie in South Korea with German actors, or a movie with a budget.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 10:34:29 pm

[Jeff Breuer] "a movie with a budget."

I just checked - MK's budget was $20 million. District 9 is considered a benchmark for big results on a small budget, and that was $30 million, so yeah, this one's pretty small.

Of course, most of his returns have been in the $40-70 million range, about

The two exceptions are Spy Kids and Spy Kids 3D of course - $149m and $190-something million on budgets of $35m and $38m respectively.

I like that there's somebody carving out a space as a moneymaking cult-ish director working in this price range, and I love your idea of making him change things up. I'm just having a hard time coming up with the specific movie he'd make to accomplish this....

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Mark Suszko
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 14, 2013 at 10:55:27 pm

How about an El Santo luchador movie, but played completely straight-up? Basically, like a superhero flick, but it's just a masked guy with brawling skills and incredible strength and endurance, wearing the mask?

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Scott Roberts
Re: Machete Kills
on Oct 15, 2013 at 2:02:38 pm

[Tim Wilson] "and the kids, especially Alexa Vega, are terrific."

She's one of the Spy Kids? Rodriguez cast her in Machete Kills as Sofia Vergara's bodyguard, who is a dialogue-less set of almost exposed boobs (never shown NOT in a bikini) who does nothing but fire guns aimlessly and never hit Machete. Weird, maybe? I guess she's 25 now. Good for her?

The numbers on Machete Kills are in, which I didn't bother to look at yesterday. It made a just short of $4 million, making it quite the bomb. Apparently it's one of the worst openings *ever* for a film released on over 2500 screens. But like Tim pointed out, Rodriguez has made profit on basically everything else he's done, so I'm sure this won't be a setback in his career to make future terrible CGI gunfights, wooden characters, and randomly inserted fart jokes.

To be fair, I'm a bit of a hypocrite. I DO plan on watching Rodriguez's next Sin City movie. But that's 75% because I've read and enjoyed all of the actual Sin City comic books. Sin City actually kind of fits his immature aesthetic, so there's good potential I could enjoy it. ...or at least feel nostalgic about my college years again.

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