This image released by Open Road Films shows Danny Trejo, left, and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from "Machete Kills." (AP Photo/Open Road Films, Rico Torres)

Machete sequel disappoints


1 hour, 47 minutes

Rated R

Quick Draw Productions

When is Robert Rodriguez going to start directing real movies again? His early films, though definitely genre movies, were unique and interesting. Movies like “El Mariachi,” “Desperado” and even, to some extent, “From Dusk till Dawn” were more than just gimmicks. But lately all we’ve gotten from Rodriguez are inside jokes in the form of feature films. Starting with the ridiculously over bloated “Grindhouse,” Rodriguez has simply been interested in the meticulous re-creation of terrible films from the 70s and early 80s. Unlike his buddy Quentin Tarantino, who takes these thing very seriously, Rodriguez is going for a laugh. He still takes it very seriously, but it’s amusement, not high art. “Machete,” which was spun off from one of the “Grindhouse” trailers, was not a good movie, nor was it intended to be. It was an homage, of sorts, to a style of film that deserves no homages. If this is done as satire, it can be clever, but after a while you have to wonder, if it’s not a good movie, why are you watching it? But question becomes even more pronounced with this weeks unnecessary sequel Machete Kills,” in which Robert Rodriguez and his ubiquitous star Danny Trejo managed to slaughter two hours of my afternoon.

It’s somewhat pointless to outline the plot, which has something to do with Trejo’s Machete traveling back and forth from Mexico to Washington to stop a madman with a missile. Along the way he encounters an eclectic group of characters including a schizophrenic Mexican revolutionary, a shape-shifting assassin, and Mel Gibson in a cape. There are bits and pieces of the movie that are amusing, I’ll admit. Demian Bichir’s bipolar Mexican madman has his moments, and the quartet of cameos (Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas) playing The Chameleon were fun for a few minutes at a time. The best part of the movie, however, was definitely Mel Gibson as the super rich industrialist villain. Gibson, moreso than anybody else, seemed to strike the right tone, arch and melodramatic, that made his scenes almost enjoyable instead of a slog. Dour star Trejo, on the other hand, is painful to watch. I’m sure he’s acting just as directed, hitting that perfect ‘70’s-era schlocky performance, but then we’re back to the question from the first paragraph. Why am I watching this?

“Machete Kills” looks and feels cheap, and I’m sure a lot of time and money went into making it look and feel that way. Be that as it may, the movie is no fun to watch. I was alternately bored and irritated for over an hour and half, making this movie at least seventy-five minutes longer than it needed to be. “Desperado” is one of my favorite action movies and it made Antonio Banderas one of my favorite actors. That was, unfortunately, almost twenty years ago. Rodriguez needs to pull back from the precipice and start making actual movies again. Otherwise, he might as well add an M. Night to the front of his name and embrace his career spiral. Grade: D.

The weekend wasn’t a total loss, however. I happened to rent a movie I’d heard a lot about this summer, when it came out, but never managed to get to the theatre to see. “The Heat” starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy looked to be a rehash of some bad buddy cop comedies I’d seen, and I wasn’t all that interested. Sandra Bullock is an actress I like, but not enough to rush right out to buy tickets, and McCarthy had last starred in “Identity Thief” which I thought was awful. The movie did well and got good reviews, so when I saw it in the video store, I thought, why not. What a pleasant surprise, especially after the depressing waste of time that was “Machete Kills.” “The Heat” is very funny, sweet without getting maudlin, and really nails the concept of a female buddy cop movie - a genre that is almost exclusively occupied by men. Some of it is silly, and not every joke hits, but the ones that do are perfect. Both McCarthy and Bullock are excellent, rarely giving over to cliches, and director Paul Feig, who also gave us “Bridesmaids,” is rapidly proving that genres once thought to the exclusive domain of men - raunchy comedy and action, so far, can just as successfully be aimed at women. I would watch “The Heat” ten times before sitting through “Machete Kills” again. I recommend you check it out at least once. Grade: A-

“Machete Kills” is rated R for graphic, continuous violence, language, and sexual situations.

“The Heat” is rated R for language, violence, and crude content.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.


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