I’m a little concerned. Robert Rodriguez, that indie wonder kid, best buds with Quentin Tarantino and director of such classics as Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and Sin City, has been making more of a name for himself lately as the poster boy for the grindhouse genre. Tarantino was wise to just dip his toe in it before delivering the double whammy of Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained. Yet the imminent arrival of the hotly anticipated Sin City: A Dame To Kill For has been slightly wilted by Rodriguez’s z-grade obsession … which going by the reviews, got old very quickly.
This follow-up to the movie inspired by a trailer in the middle of that Grindhouse double feature calamity, finds hulking Mexican for hire Danny Trejo as bounty hunter and former marshal ‘Machete’ who gets hired by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen … er, yes) to bring down a crime lord who is threatening to send a missile to nuke Washington. Yeah it’s stupid and it’s the sort of plot you’d find in an 80’s TV show or some movie in a flea pit of a cinema that had run out of porn … but it’s a concept, played fully tongue-in-cheek that makes for highly entertaining tosh.
Rodriguez clearly loves the material and although it lacks some of the sucker-punch moments of the previous one it still had enough comical ideas (the speeder from Star Wars, ‘Machete don’t tweet’…) that bored is not something I could be. Co-starring a cast you almost have to read twice to believe, yes Sheen as well as Cuba Gooding Jnr, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady GaGa (!) and even Mel Gibson – this could have been a riot. Yet due to that intentional grindhouse style, its all done badly; the acting is only passable (although Gibson is great) and the effects, stunts and even the gore are amateurish (with a surprising lack of nudity). Yeah I get it, it’s all part of the joke … but does detract from some of the movie’s bigger moments.
One to watch with beer, friends and your brain on auto-pilot. Is it wrong I actually want to see ‘Machete Kills again – in space’ ??
Has to be said, director Steven Soderbergh has been one of the more prolific film makers of recent years, sometimes churning out several movies a year. He is also one of the most versatile, now dipping his toe in the espionage thriller sub-genre with this latest offering.
Newcomer and former MMA (mixed martial arts) champion Gina Carano stars as a highly skilled Government agent who during a mission in Barcelona is set up by her own people, and is soon out seeking revenge. Nothing all that original but for a cool-as-ice performance from the very sexy Carano, showcasing some impressive skills in several gritty and realistically-shot fights. Realism is the key word here and Soderbergh delivers a very well made movie that shoots the action like a documentary film maker but sprinkles events in an assured, stylish sheen. It’s a unique approach but helps this movie gain its own identity.
Support from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas and Antonio Banderas are good but nothing all that special. Clearly this is a showcase for Carano who proves herself not only a believable action star but also a likable screen presence, and I for one will be keeping my eye on her. Fast, slick and very enjoyable.
I liked the first two Skrek movies, their clever spin on fairy tales and nursery rhymes, with likable characters and often spot-on humour. Naturally one of the most enjoyable characters was Puss, voiced brilliantly by Antonio Banderas, and getting his own feature seemed on obvious thing.
Now you might ask, does the character, who is basically a ginger cat in boots and a hat, sporting a Musketeer-style sword really have enough going for him to carry his own movie? In a word – yes. Now what the writers here have done is pull from some of the most famous children’s stories (this time Jack & The Bean Stalk and to a lesser extent Humpty Dumpty) and throw our smooth womanizing (well, female cat-nising) hero into the middle of it all. This is funny, if a tad too steered towards children for my liking, but has a good story and some interesting characters (Salma Hayek’s Kitty Soft Paws for instance). Sadly the jokes don’t all hit the mark, much of the adult-aimed humour from the Shrek movies is missing, and towards the end the bad guy’s evil masterplan doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Thankfully though it all looks lush, with gorgeous CGI animation and plenty of action.
At the end of the day however, it doesn’t quite have enough ideas or character (the villainous Jack & Jill are rubbish) to stand alongside the greats like Toy Story or Monsters Inc. But if like me you fell in love with ol’ Puss In Boots in the Shrek movies … you’ll undoubtedly still have a good time.
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