News Column

Adventures in Barrywood: How 'Machete Kills' ended up a hack job

October 21, 2013

YellowBrix

I think it's pretty much a given that the people who run Hollywood don't know what they're doing.

Was that too harsh? Do you have some proof that they do?

Making a successful movie certainly is not easy, and filmmakers are constantly searching for that elusive pot of box office gold, but more movies fail than succeed, so it's a safe assumption that a lot of people in this town are clueless as to how to achieve the success they crave.

The movie business seems like one big crapshoot, which brings me to the subject of "Machete Kills."

The twisted sequel from director Robert Rodriguez was released last week and barely made enough money to pay for the doughnuts and coffee on the set of a summer blockbuster _ assuming the coffee isn't from Starbucks.

It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, the first "Machete" movie made more than $40 million, which isn't "Iron Man" territory, but it certainly could convince someone that a sequel wasn't a terrible idea.

Since almost no one saw "Machete Kills" last weekend, this probably would be a good time to give you a little background on this cinematic masterpiece.

Essentially, it is a sequel to an inside joke. Rodriguez is a super-cool dude from Texas who not only directs hip films like "Sin City" and "Desperado," but children's movies as well (the entire "Spy Kids" franchise). In the 2007 tongue-in-cheek exploitation movie "Grindhouse," Rodriguez and co-conspirator Quentin Tarantino teased audiences with some hysterical fake trailers for movies that didn't exist.

Well, they didn't exist until Rodriguez brought one of them to life in the 2010 film "Machete," starring longtime Hollywood bad guy Danny Trejo as a good guy fighting bad guys at the Mexican border. I've been a fan of the scary-looking Trejo for a long time, and it was nice to see him not only get the girl in a movie but get a fat paycheck for a change.

Rodriguez promised a sequel with another fake trailer, and he not only directed the sequel, but he produced, co-wrote and co-edited it. I can only assume that he also served lunch and parked cars.

With his reputation and $40 million in the bank from the original, Rodriguez must have thought his sequel was a sure thing. But there are no sure things in the movie business.

The reasons the movie failed are varied. First, it is a stupid movie. It is a joke that has run its course, even though Rodriguez is promising a third "Machete" movie. The next one, if we are to believe yet another fake trailer, will take place in space. It just keeps getting dumber.

Of course, stupid movies have succeeded before, just as smart movies have failed.

Besides being a stupid movie, here are 10 other reasons why the "Machete" sequel didn't kill at the box office:

1. The hero looked too old. Trejo couldn't pull off the smooth super-agent character again. The joke was on him this time.

2. Sofia Vergara's bra. It works like a machine gun with both barrels blazing. I know it sounds like fun, but if you've seen one movie with Sofia Vergara in a bullet-busting bra, you've seen them all.

3. Charlie Sheen as the president of the United States. If you're going to use this kind of stunt casting, be sure to use the name that everyone knows. Instead, Sheen uses his real name (Carlos Estevez) in the credits. Once again, a joke that was so inside, it wasn't funny.

4. Too many decapitations. I know what you're going to say: How can you have too many decapitations in a movie? But it got to be monotonous, and decapitations should never be taken for granted in a movie.

5. Too much message and not enough massage. Rodriguez really hits the audience over the head with his political message on the immigration issue. You can't hit people over the head after they've been decapitated.

6. Jessica Alba dies. I probably should have put a "SPOILER ALERT" warning in here somewhere, but you have shown little interest in seeing this movie so I feel confident that I can tell you that the beautiful actress gets one between the eyes.

7. Mel Gibson as a villain. Too obvious.

8. Not enough memorable dialogue. When the coolest line in the movie is "Machete don't text," you've got a script problem.

9. Michelle Rodriguez with an eye patch. OK, that was cool, but then the director spoils it by shooting out her other eye.

10. Lady Gaga makes a cameo appearance. This may be the first movie in history to have nothing but stunt casting, which is supposed to be a treat and not the whole meal. Sofia Vergara as a murderous, foul-mouthed, bra-shooting madam would have been sufficient.

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Barry Koltnow: bkoltnow@ocregister.com

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(c)2013 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

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