The Machete Series
Machete (May 22/12)
Machete, which started out as a fake trailer attached to Grindhouse, follows the title character (Danny Trejo) as he's framed for the attempted murder of a prominent politician (Robert De Niro's John McLaughlin), with the film subsequently detailing Machete's brutal efforts at exacting revenge on the network of thugs responsible for his downfall. It's rather disappointing to note that Machete remains virtually unwatchable for the majority of its padded-out running time (105 minutes? Really?), as filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis have infused the proceedings with a pervasively tongue-in-cheek feel that grows tiresome right from the get-go (ie the novelty of the premise wears off almost immediately). This is despite an ongoing emphasis on action sequences of a decidedly over-the-top variety, with the excitement level of such moments diminished significantly by a continuing reliance on computer-generated effects (ie it's all just so cartoonish). The surprisingly (yet consistently) lifeless atmosphere is perpetuated by a storyline that is, for the most part, hopelessly tedious, as scripters Rodriguez and Alvaro Rodriguez offer up a convoluted narrative that's been packed with a whole host of frustratingly extraneous elements (ie this is far from the straight-forward tale of revenge that one might've expected and hoped for). The end result is a disastrous waste of time that is as tedious as it is misguided, and it's difficult to envision even fans of the faux trailer finding much of anything worth embracing here.
Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills
An obvious improvement over its virtually unwatchable predecessor, Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills follows the title character (Danny Trejo) as he sets out to stop a Mexican revolutionary (Demian Bichir's Mendez) and a megalomaniacal arms dealer (Mel Gibson's Voz) from launching a deadly missile. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez has wisely taken the Machete series into an unabashedly outlandish direction with this (almost) passable entry, as Kyle Ward's screenplay is chock-a-block with elements and plot developments of an appreciatively larger-than-life variety - with the best (and most entertaining) example of this the relentless assassin that continually changes his/her appearance. (It doesn't hurt that said assassin is played by, among others, Cuba Gooding Jr., Walt Goggins, and Lady Gaga.) And although Trejo simply does not possess the presence or charisma required of a movie star, Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills, in its early stages, benefits from an appealing road-trip narrative and the over-the-top efforts of an eclectic supporting cast (which includes Amber Heard and Charlie Sheen). There reaches a very specific point, however, at which the movie begins to palpably run out of steam, as Rodriguez, having abandoned the road-trip storyline, places the focus entirely on Machete's dealings with Gibson's character - with this shift marked by a stretch of talky exposition that, while intriguing at first, ultimately feels kind of endless. The broadly conceived climax is, as a result, drained of its impact and energy, and it's not surprising to note that the film's momentum is, in its final half hour, pretty much non-existent - which does, in the end, cement Robert Rodriguez's Machete Kills' place as a disappointingly overstuffed actioner (ie like the original, there's just too much going on here).