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Movie Review: Machete Kills

MC2-DF-06951.CR2Machete Kills is the next installment in the Grindhouse film series by filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. The series began as a double feature of the same name, containing an original movie by each director, Planet Terror by Robert Rodriguez and Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino. They were not official releases in the filmmaker’s discographies, but were essentially their tributes to the exploitation/Grindhouse films of the 1970’s and 1980’s that heavily influences their work today.

After this collaboration, Robert Rodriguez made a Grindhouse spin-off titled Machete, centering on 2001’s Spy Kids’ Carmen and Juni Cortez’s uncle. Seriously. A sleazy, ultra-violent crime/thriller/western/comedy centering on a character from mega-hit children’s film Spy Kids is hilarious in itself, and the film was surprisingly popular and well received. Now, three years later, Machete Kills hit the theaters. While being similarly entertaining and over-the-top as Machete, it also falls flat in many ways and comes across as a missed opportunity.

Machete Kills is a difficult film to pin down. While almost everything in the movie is played for laughs, there is an underlying sense of malice to it all. Not only because of the cartoonish violence, but the tone as well. Machete Kills has the most jarring tonal shifts of any movie this year, and while this is mostly on purpose, it makes the movie constantly unengaged. At times you do not know if you are in on a joke or the subject of one.

Machete Kills is possibly one of the most shocking and off-the-wall major films ever released in theaters. The storyline is secondary to the gross-out gags, extreme comic violence, and constant celebrity appearances including Mel Gibson, Lady Gaga, and even a machine gun wielding Alexa Vega (who played Carmen Cortez, one of the main characters from Spy Kids!). Unfortunately, she is not literally Carmen Cortez from Spy Kids, but the movie is much more enjoyable if you pretend that she is that character.

Machete gets caught up in a war between the United States and extremists in Mexico. He has run-ins with a psychotic bounty hunter (Lady Gaga), and eventually the ultimate criminal mastermind bent on world destruction, Voz (Mel Gibson). The storyline is intentionally disjointed and schlocky, bringing style, satire, and celebrity cameos to the forefront.

Unfortunately, nothing ever pays off. After the film ends open-ended, there is a satirical trailer promoting a sequel, Machete Kills Again… In Space! Whether this movie will actually be the real sequel to Machete Kills is unknown. The thought of another Machete film seems wholly unnecessary at this point. The satirical bite and over-the-top shocking fun made its point in the first Machete.

This ultimately shallow sequel adds little to the original, and falls flat by the time the credits are rolling. More movies like this need to be made. I want to love Machete Kills, and in some ways I do, but the constant tonal shifts, almost complete lack of structure, and disappointing ending get in the way of its true potential.

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