Machete KillsReviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 10/12/13 21:36:50
(Worth A Look)
For an actor who trades endlessly on one basic mode -- dour hard-ass -- Danny Trejo gets a lot of fanboy love. I think Trejo's fans respond to his presence, his authenticity (he spent most of the '60s in and out of prison), and perhaps his craggy, unapologetic Mexican-ness. Danny Trejo is as far from stale whitebread as you can get. He's the real deal.In Machete Kills, Robert Rodriguez' sequel to his 2010 Machete, Trejo seems to hold almost everyone he meets in cool contempt. Why do these people want to start shit with him? He's only going to kill them; it doesn't make sense. Trejo's Machete, like Snake Plissken, just wants to be left alone. Unlike Snake, Machete can be pulled into heroism by appeals to his sense of justice. Trejo, who does work some subtle shifts in tone into his dead-cool demeanor, stoically pushes forward while the rest of the cast goes nuts.
Here, for instance, we have Sofia Vergara as a character named Madame Desdemona, who runs a brothel, seethes about how much she despises men as she whips a client, and wears outfits studded with quick-draw weaponry. Vergara is often helplessly funny on Modern Family and elsewhere, and she's funny here, too, but also a little terrifying -- she plays vengeful rage as an over-the-top joke, but she plays it huge, operatic in scale, emptying her guns and shrieking and flipping the Iberian slap. And she isn't even the craziest critter in this menagerie, not in a movie that also includes Demian Bichir as an agent with at least three personalities and Mel Gibson -- yes, him -- as an arms-running billionaire with plans to colonize space and a penchant for wearing a luchador mask to do dirty deeds.
Gibson, however deplorable he may be out in the world, is amusing and low-key insane here. He takes the spot held by Lindsay Lohan in the first Machete, proving that Rodriguez is good-hearted enough to hire just about anyone if they're willing to do the work. (Maybe the promised next installment, Machete Kills Again...in Space, will have a role for Miley Cyrus.) Lady Gaga also shows up as La Cameleon, a bounty hunter and master of disguise -- she also turns up looking like Cuba Gooding Jr. and Walton Goggins, or perhaps Cuba Gooding Jr. and Walton Goggins turn up looking like her. Rodriguez never explains; he's off and running. The story is credited to Rodriguez and his brother Marcel (Kyle Ward worked it into a script), and it feels like something a couple of brothers would cobble together in their bunk bed when they're supposed to be asleep. Decapitated heads! A three-bladed machete! A molecule gun that turns people inside out! Dude, that rocks!
Rodriguez makes jam-packed B-movies, but what has always separated him from colder, more impersonal practitioners of neo-grindhouse is that he seems to be having so much fun, and he lets us share it; he throws loud parties and cheerfully invites us to drop in. There's a freewheeling honesty to the way he works, and an utter lack of pretense. His movies are what they are, and they are not for those with snobby or refined tastes. Too bad, because those people are missing some of the most vital, full-blooded pure filmmaking American cinema has to offer at the moment, especially at a time when even movies based on comic books slouch into our view like emo teenagers, all brooding and gloomy. Machete may never crack a smile but his stoicism is hard-earned; he grounds the craziness with which Rodriguez surrounds him.
The Machete movies gesture briefly towards political relevance: themes of immigration and drug cartels flow through both. Machete runs into corruption at all levels, to the point where the only person he trusts is Michelle Rodriguez as the leader of the Network, which helps Mexicans cross the border into America. Michelle's word is so good that she persuades Machete not to kill a hitman who once crucified his brother. The scene isn't terribly important to the plot, other than to explain why Tom Savini is returning from the first film, but it again demonstrates Robert Rodriguez' good-heartedness. Anyone, even an assassin who nailed a priest to a cross (or even Mel Gibson), can redeem himself.Like its predecessor, "Machete Kills" is very far from serious, but that doesn't make it meaningless.
|© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.|