Robert Rodriguez is one of those directors that everybody has heard of, but nobody really gets. Most viewers want to firmly decide whether they love or hate Rodriguez. After all, he directed El mariachi, Desperado, and From Dusk Till Dawn. He also worked alongside Frank Miller on Sin City. If you forget the Spy Kids franchise, or chalk it up as his good deed for children, that’s a pretty solid list of credits. All of those movies warrant a second watch.
He’s also become the hipster filmmaker hero, after he released his book “Rebel Without a Crew.” Just about every aspiring filmmaker has read this Rodriguez’s tale of run-n-gun shooting. Spike Lee recommends the book to his students at NYU.
But, then comes along The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D, Grindhouse and the subsequent film Planet Terror and you have to ask yourself one question. What is this guy really doing? Is he just taking any job that comes along, trying to make a statement or is he aiming to be a stylized director like his partner-in-crime, Quentin Tarantino. It feels like some kind of bizarre mix of the two.
Machete worked much like Desperado to give viewers a kick-butt action hero, who wasn’t white. It was needed. Not only was Danny Trejo playing a Hispanic Captain America, but he also got the girl. And, not just one girl either… No, no. Machete got all the women.
Sure the movie was balls-to-the-wall insanely unbelievable, but that’s what any action movie is at the end of the day. Action movies are unbelievable ways for us to escape and experience our inner hero. And, why shouldn’t there be a Hispanic hero who is damn near immortal and a sexual icon? And, of course, the villain should be your stereotypical, clean-cut Hollywood actor, Don Johnson.
Machete may not have had plot depth, but it had heart thanks to Machete’s relationship with Luz, Michelle Rodriguez, and Sartana, played by Jessica Alba. I even went so far as to proclaim Machete as the number one action hero of 2010 so long ago.
Unfortunately, that’s where Machete Kills fails. The film sidesteps all of Machete’s personal relationships and just goes for stylized action. Even the worst 80’s action movie knew that a hero needs something or someone tangible to be a hero. Luz and Sartana are virtually absent from the sequel and Machete is left running around under the orders of the president, played by Charlie Sheen. There’s just nothing compelling to keep you watching.
Sadly, there’s even a nod to a sequel to the sequel as well as a cliffhanger. Unlike The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was able to cheat in a cliffhanger (that we all hated), Machete isn’t a big enough film franchise to warrant such a cliffhanger. Plus, the reveal of the cliffhanger happens at the very beginning of Machete Kills with a b-movie teaser trailer for Machete Kills Again… In Space!
There’s a lot of potential in the Machete franchise, or at least there was. But somebody’s got to grab Rodriguez by the collar and help him figure out what he’s really trying to do. Then, give the man a plot and some interesting characters that we want to follow. Machete needs to save people we want to see saved.
The first Machete movie was statement of propaganda. Machete Kills was just a painful mishmash of action and useless Lady Gaga scenes. It was almost Rodriguez’s answer to Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch – another action film lacking even the slightest sliver of substance.