There’s a website I love called Trailersfromhell.com, in which famous directors showcase their favorite coming attractions previews. Someone like Guillermo Del Toro or John Landis introduces and narrates a two-minute trailer, telling their personal experiences or the back story of the film in question. Sometimes, the filmmakers choose trailers for the likes of Rosemary’s Baby or Halloween. Mostly, it’s for amusing trash like The Green Slime or The Giant Claw, movies that are appreciatively encapsulated in trailers but hardly worth watching in their entirety.
The site helpfully demonstrates that trailers are sometimes better than the movie they’re promoting. Writer/director Robert Rodriguez could learn from this, as his Machete Kills is fun in trailer form but, at a full 107 minutes, is a drag to sit through.
For those new to the saga, the story so far: Rodriguez’s fake trailer within the wonderfully deranged anthology film Grindhouse spun off into the feature length Machete in 2010. It delivered on its promise of an all-star cast gleefully hamming it up in a blood soaked Mex-ploitation flick, with the amusingly grim, smile-free Danny Trejo clearly relishing his unlikely leading man status in the title role.
But for all of its anything-goes outrageousness, it was rather flat. The sequel has many of the same problems as its predecessor, such as allowing Trejo to play one-note for an entire movie and skimping on the cheap thrills. There are some amusingly (though unprintable) one-liners, scattered laughs and chuckle-worthy splatters of gore but, as strange as it sounds, there should have been more.
I like Rodriguez’s movies and his heart is in the right place when he stages one scene in a deserted drive-in movie theater. I also liked his homage to Star Wars, Mad Max and his own From Dusk Til Dawn, but he’s been down this road too many times before. His El Mariachi trilogy is a superior blend of thrills and B-movie grit, and his Grindhouse vignette Planet Terror was relentlessly, hilariously, trashy.
His Machete movies are amusing in theory and offer a welcome razzing of U.S./Mexico relations and border patrol but they’re not as funny, exciting or grotesque as they ought to be. Planet Terror was a spot-on dissection of a dumb B-movie. This is just a dumb B-movie.
The revolving door cast of celebrities can only do so much to keep Rodriguez’s over-plotted screenplay interesting. Charlie Sheen (billed as Carlos Estevez) is a stitch as the U.S. President, delivering his absurd scenes completely straight. Sofia Vergara plays a raunchy character with filthy dialogue that makes her ideal for a so-bad-its-good movie. Too bad her tasty appearances are too infrequent.
The initially promising cameos by Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, Tom Savini and Antonio Banderas are quickly wasted and, in the unlikely event that Lady Gaga becomes a film actress of note, it won’t be for her work here. Nothing she does tops Lindsey Lohan’s packing heat and dressed in a nun’s habit in the first movie. There’s also Mel Gibson, oddly miscast in a role with lots of exposition and not enough opportunities to cut loose and display his considerable comedic talents.
A scene early in the film sums up what’s wrong with the execution: Trejo and bombshell Amber Heard are making out and she’s about to get naked. A title card flashes across the screen saying, “It’s Time to Put on Your 3D Glasses.” You laugh, until you realize that the movie isn’t in 3-D for some reason and Heard doesn’t actually get naked, even though this is an R-rated ode to drive-in movies.
Rodriguez is working overtime to tease B-movie conventions. Had he surrendered to them completely, he might have made a good movie.
Score: ** (1-5 Star Score)