Machete Kills didn’t exactly triumph at the box office. The film opened at #4 and was quickly beaten into submission by Gravity and roughly a dozen other films, eventually admitting defeat after recouping less than three quarters of its budget. A month after its release and the film has all but vanished from theaters. Conventional logic states that this is the end for dear old Machete (although for all we know, there may be endless direct-to-DVD sequels in his future). So as we marvel at how quickly the fake-Mexploitation-grindhouse craze has fizzled and died, take a look at what may be the single most enjoyable aspect of Machete Kills: the fake threequel trailer that ran before it.
Titled Machete Kills Again… in Space, it’s exactly what you think it is (and if you were one of the few to actually see Machete Kills in theaters, it’s exactly what you’ve seen already). Danny Trejo scowling against a CGI backdrop. Machete-shaped lightsabers. A constant stream of celebrity cameos, including a Justin Bieber joke that’s easily a year or two too late. It’s stupid as all hell, and at this point the thrill of seeing Trejo thwack people open with sharp instruments has faded, but at a minute and forty-six seconds it never outstays its welcome.
Yet the excesses of the feature-length Machetes tell of a Robert Rodriguez who’s stuck in a creative loop. For years, Rodriguez has been releasing two films, over and over again: Spy Kids and El Mariachi. The former has been born again through three sequels and two other family films that might as well be. The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D is Spy Kids with a superhero paintjob; Shorts is the same with magic wishes. Meanwhile, El Mariachi was blessed with a remake/sequel and an actual sequel, continually upping the ante from revenge tale to much bigger revenge tale to save-the-president-of-Mexico tale. Then for fun, Trejo was transplanted into his own Mexican revenge thriller franchise.
It’s an odd dichotomy that appears in Rodriguez’ work. Everything (and I mean everything) the director has put his stamp on is either science fiction-tinted family adventure or soaked in liquified human remains. Rodriguez’ next outing, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For will likely be just as gruesome as the first Sin City. His other upcoming production, Best Boy, may not have any kind of official synopsis, but coming from screenwriter Nick Thiel– who penned a number of Disney flicks in the late 80s early 90s, it’s not hard to guess where that project is headed.
In both of the films Rodriguez has continued to photocopy, there’s a sense of childlike wonder (seriously; stick with me for a second). In one instance, Rodriguez is making films specifically for children- loading them up with special effects and featuring children kicking unreasonable amounts of ass. In the other, Rodriguez is making films for the child inside Rodriguez. He’s taking a Danny Trejo action figure and smashing his other toys to bits with it, then soaking the whole scene in corn syrup and red food coloring. Rodriguez’ films may not always hit the highs of Desperado, and they may occasionally tank at the box office, but in every single instance, you can tell that the man behind the camera was at least having a blast.
It wasn’t always meant to be this way. Back when Machete was first making the transition from gag trailer to gag film, Rodriguez stated his original intention in an interview with IGN. Says Rodriguez, “It’s an idea I came up with back during Desperado. When I met Danny, I said, ‘This guy should be like the Mexican Jean-Claude Van Damme or Charles Bronson, putting out a movie every year.'” But Trejo was able to achieve that before Machete ever came along. While he may not be a star like Bronson or Van Damme were at their peaks, Trejo has made an art out of getting his name on the cover of as many direct-to-DVD releases as possible (this year marks 14 films and counting, plus multiple TV and video game appearances). The Machete films are more or less the same thing blown up to big-screen proportions.
Rodriguez used to be an indie darling. El Mariachi was shot on a shoestring budget, and later installments saw Rodriguez taking up the mantle of director, editor, director of photography, composer and (I’m assuming) horse wrangler in a single production. The world needs more films like El Mariachi; presumably we’ll see one if Robert Rodriguez ever decides to make a new film.
(via The Playlist)