Tuesday, 15 October 2013



Given that the world wasn't exactly crying out for a sequel to an expansion of a fake trailer stuck in the middle of an unsuccessful and largely unseen homage to a niche subgenre that's been out of vogue for several decades, it's odd to see that Robert Rodriguez's film not only continues to hammer cheerfully away at the long-defunct grindhouse concept, but to actively promise an even more ridiculous third instalment (Machete Kills Again...In Space, which is the only part of the film with the scratchy celluloid look to it), while still not getting it right. Still, it's approximately eight billion times better than the similarly derived Hobo With A Shotgun.

Machete Kills (which I personally feel should have an exclamation mark after it) once again sees Danny Trejo as ex-Federale Machete, assigned by the President (Charlie Sheen under his real name of Carlos Estevez) to prevent a Mexican revolutionary lunatic from firing a missile into Washington DC. In this he's variously helped and hindered by his CIA contact Amber Heard, his old comrades from the Mexican immigrant network (Michelle Rodriguez, Tom Savini) and a contract killer with a string of Mission Impossible masks (Cuba Gooding Jr, Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga). But the real villain turns out to be weapons manufacturer Mel Gibson plotting nothing less than the mass extinction of humanity....

Look, I don't mind that Machete Kills is essentially a James Bond film with outlandish villains (Gibson's scheme is essentially conflating The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker), unfeasibly glamorous women, daft gadgets and big action scenes. It's enjoyably sleazy, very silly and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a good measure of fun with it. The problem is that it isn't a proper grindhouse movie: the production values are far too high, the special effects and photography are far too good. Real grindhouse movies are like Don't Go In The House or Paulie: Day Of A Rapist or Unhinged: grotty, cheap, ugly and dull, and they'd more than likely have gratuitous nudity and grubby sex scenes as well. (For the record, Machete Kills' boob count is zero.)

But while it's technically too good for the grindhouse and drive-in trash genre (just as Planet Terror and the first Machete were), at the same time it isn't anywhere near good enough to cut it as a "proper" film. The story is nonsense and the gags ludicrous (Machete kills one guy by ripping his intestines out and tossing them into the whirring blades of a helicopter), and it's too in-on-the-joke which puts it closer to the likes of the Scary Movie franchise - yes, it's rubbish, but we know it's rubbish and it's supposed to be rubbish, why would you take it seriously? It's a Machete sequel, for goodness' sake! On that level, it's fun, probably more fun than the first one (which I haven't revisited), but brilliant it ain't, and grindhouse it ain't.


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