Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Machete (Robert Rodriguez, 2010) -- D+

The poster shows it all. Digitally applying creases to replicate the former practice of sending folded rather than rolled posters to theaters, Machete is an embarrassingly worthless addition to an already nauseating line of films with nothing more on their minds than paying homage to the sensibilities and lifestyle of moviegoing the directors grew up on. Even this in and of itself is not a completely worthless venture, but Robert Rodriguez, following his equally embarrassing Planet Terror, is a total hack, unable to coherently assemble compelling action sequences, dialogue, or anything resembling texture. Before anyone starts peddling the "but it's self-aware satire" angle, let's be clear about what such a discursive mode entails. Satire necessitates a cognitive grasp of a particular topic or idea, and revealing the inherent absurdity behind it, a more subtle, underlying vantage point that is not readily apparent or, at least, needs further clarification. Yet Rodriguez's filmmaking is totally hollow and soulless - there are no convictions behind any of his fetishized take on the vigilante/(m)exploitation film. In not taking the films he supposedly holds dear to him seriously, he produces silly pop culture fodder, trotting out the likes of Steven Seagal as a craggily faced baddie (but only really cast to get a chuckle from his questionable action star reputation) or Don Johnson (credited as "introducing") as Von Jackson - another throwaway target for Danny Trejo's titular weapon of choice. Subpar as The Expendables is, at least it has enough conviction to take the genre riff seriously. Quentin Tarantino has ten times the compositional craft and giddy cinematic eye as Rodriguez, who cuts action scenes worse than what you'd expect to find in recent direct-to-DVD Tom Selleck movies. Enough with these goofily reverential (but not) films (everyone) and enough with....films, period (Rodriguez).

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