Release Date: October 11, 2013
Director: Robert Rodriguez
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 2.5/10
Robert Rodriguez first brought the character of Machete, played by Danny Trejo, to the big screen in 2007’s Grindhouse, by showcasing it as one of the film’s fake movie trailers. The response was so positive that in 2010 a feature length film was made which capitalized on the schlocky, over the top violence seen in the trailer. Like Grindhouse, Machete had a classical feel, harkening back to the days when 70s exploitation was king, and 42nd street was more than just a tourist spot. Fast forward to 2013 and Trejo is back in Machete Kills, however the luster is gone, and we’re left with nothing but a husk of something that once was.
It’s difficult to criticize these contemporary exploitation throwbacks, considering they are not meant to necessarily be “good” movies. Be that as it may, Machete Kills plays out like a bad action movie with the guise of being a quirky 70s grindhouse flick. It’s simply too long, too glossy, and too boring to be worth any kind of recommendation.
The extreme comedic violence makes a return from the first Machete, with Trejo dispatching hordes of random henchman in increasing brutal and bloody ways. Unfortunately, most of the violence is done with CG, which looks absolutely terrible. It seems like it’s downright criminal to feature special effects God Tom Savini as a major character, and yet not employ his brand of genius when it comes to the makeup effects. Had there been at least some practical effects work done, this would have been a much more enjoyable watch. In addition, it would have helped the overall style feel more like an actual grindhouse film and not just the Hollywood studio version.
On the topic of visuals, Machete Kills feels nothing like the type of movies it supposedly draws so many influences from. The cinematography is entirely too fluid and clean, too modern for this type of film. The thing that made Grindhouse successful was that Tarantino and Rodriguez captured the essence of classic 70s genre films, and none of that essence was present in this movie.
Although there were some very humorous lines of dialogue, mostly coming from Trejo and Mel Gibson as the villainous Voz, for the most part the comedy relied too heavily on sight gags and cameos. One of the hitmen out to get Machete, dubbed El Camaleón, is played by Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas. This would be a decent idea if it wasn’t presented in such a stupid and meaningless way.
Machete Kills isn’t a bad movie because of the ridiculous plot, bad special effects, or overly long and boring action scenes. It’s a bad movie because it fails at faithfully recreating a bad movie. It’s supposed to be over the top and violent and cheesy, but too much of it feels silly and completely unnecessary. A few laughs can be had, and the large, eclectic cast is fun to see together on screen, but for being a film so focused on sex and violence, it’s a surprise that it came off as being so mind numbingly dull.