Wednesday, 9 October 2013

MACHETE KILLS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Robert Bresson: WATCH OUT! Another Robert is in town and he's looking to take you DOWN, DOWN, DOWN! So strap on your six-shooter, Bresson, high noon is approaching!

MACHETE KILLS (2013) ****
Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Carlos Estevez, Lady Gaga, William Sadler

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Not since Robert Bresson's Au Hasard Balthazar has there been a motion picture endowed with such singular grace and power in pursuit of divining the spiritual and emotional depths of existence - a film that begins with the purest state of grace and ends in the great peace of eternal rest. Machete Kills is pure art - a masterwork of the highest order. It grows with you and remains universal and like the entire canon of Robert Rodriguez, his new film unflinchingly presents an "external reality" so full of depth that you will, like I, declare this truly pure and committed filmmaker the true heir apparent to all things Bressonian.

Well, not really, but Machete Kills splatters blood, slices through bone and blows up real good.

Look, here's the deal. I love Robert Rodriguez - I always have and I always will. He's delivered one terrific action picture after another and what he lacks in applying his considerable talent for orchestrating superbly choreographed kick-ass set pieces to material that could in fact elevate him beyond comic books, he more than makes up for in the sheer joy he displays in the sheer act of making movies and being endowed with a terrific sense of humour.

If anything, Rodriguez is the Guy Maddin of Grindhouse movies in the sense that his own love and appreciation for arcane periods and styles of cinema is matched (or exceeded) by a mere handful of filmmakers that I can count on one and a half hands. The difference twixt Rodriguez and Canada's master surrealist is that Maddin infuses his work with deep, personal and even autobiographical demons and it's this very thing that elevates Maddin into a sphere beyond Rodriguez - it's what gives Maddin's work the weight missing from the Rodriguez canon - save for one important exception. The genuinely great Rodriguez collaboration with Frank Miller on the thoroughly heart-stopping Sin City delivered a film with heft, obsessive creepy-crawly darkness, stylistic homage to cinema of other ages (using said influences as a springboard into new territory) and stuffed to exploding with entertainment value to beat the band. I'll grant you that Quentin Tarantino - especially with his post-Jackie Brown work comes a lot closer to Maddin if only because his thematic concerns are weightier than those that Rodriguez could, ultimately, care less about, but all that said, Robert Rodriguez is a REAL filmmaker - he just happens to excel at generating pure unadulterated junk food.

This, for me, is not a bad thing at all. I certainly don't place it on the dreaded "guilty pleasure" rung. I don't really believe in the notion of "guilty pleasures" anyway - that's for chumps, pseuds and smugly fucklings.

Or, to look at it another way: Maddin is like a hot, hearty bowl of Cream of Wheat sprinkled with whole bran flakes and cane sugar, Tarantino is a nice helping of Kashi Blueberry Oat Clusters & Flakes with 2% milk and a few teaspoons of brown sugar and Rodriguez is an entire box of Fruit Loops served with whole cream and doused with heaping fistfuls of raw, unrefined white sugar. All three deliver different levels of nourishment, but goddamn it, all three are mighty tasty.

As for Machete Kills, If you're expecting more than a laconic hero, a bevy of babes to rival the stables of every top-flight whorehouse known to humankind and utterly ridiculous chew-the-scenery villains, then look elsewhere. The plot, such as it is, involves our grizzled machete wielding Mexican crime fighter (Danny Trejo) on a brand new mission of vengeance, but this time it's got the added bonus of capturing a schizophrenic revolutionary and drug cartel king (Demian Bichir) as ordered by the biggest cocksman President of the United States imaginable (Charlie Sheen, billed under his real name Carlos Estevez). A whack of other villains are after Machete's fine 69-year-old ass and include The Chameleon (played by several different surprise stars), a mad munitions maniac (Mel Gibson), a sexy madame equipped with machine guns clamped to her breasts (Sofia Vergara) and a redneck racist lawman (William Sadler).

Add to this mixture one ludicrous line of dialogue after another ("Machete no Tweet!"), the aforementioned parade o' babes and oodles of superbly directed hand fights, gunplay and, of course, every conceivable way of slicing villains to shreds with a magnificent variety of blades. I also don't think there is a single performance in this entire movie that doesn't deliver exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of over-the-top ham-boning - in fact, I might suggest that the scenery chewing is almost always a pubic hair or two just below the radar of annoying which hence renders it at just the right pitch.

I had a great time watching this picture. Some complain that the Machete films work just fine as mock trailers or that after their first half hour become tedious. Not for this fella! I loved the first Machete, but Machete Kills sent me to the moon. Christ only knows where I'll be jettisoned to for the upcoming third instalment Machete Kills Space.

Besides, if Rodriguez completely flipped his lid (not at all inconceivable) and delivered a five hour Bertolucci-styled Machete picture along the lines of 1900, I have a funny feeling I'd have no problem with that at all and might even walk out wishing it had been longer.

"Machete" is currently in wide theatrical release from VVS Films.