Tag: blood

Evil Dead to Cannibal: An Interview with Christopher Bond 2

Evil Dead to Cannibal: An Interview with Christopher Bond

Not that long ago Christopher Bond and his band of lunatic friends had the delightfully insane idea to turn the Sam Raimi/Bruce Campbell classic Evil Dead into a musical. It started as a Fringe show in a tiny Toronto bar, but with catchy tunes like “What The Fuck Was That” and a guarantee to splatter blood all over the audience, the show took off. It became a cult hit in Toronto and then a genuine hit. Eventually the show played all over the world with even a Las Vegas installation to give gamblers a justified excuse to show up to a casino covered in blood. Evil Dead: The Musical was a brilliant bad taste success story that deserved every bit of blood-soaked success that came its way.

Shortly after that show’s first big Toronto run, Bond and his buddies concocted their follow up: a stage expansion of Trey South Park Parker’s film debut Cannibal: The Musical. Based on the unfortunate true story of Alferd Packer and his cannibalistic horror survival tale in the Colorado Rockies, Cannibal: The Musical was a goofy romp filled with carnage and elaborate musical numbers. In other words, it was an ideal follow up for the Evil Dead: The Musical team.  Unfortunately, a few uncontrollable factors kept that show from reaching the stage at the time of conception. However, we’re all fortunate to have survived long enough to see the show finally coming to fruition. This weekend, the new and expanded stage show of Cannibal: The Musical debuts in Toronto for fans of the unusual. In celebration of this hilariously filthy creation, we got a chance to chat with the show’s co-writer/director Christopher Bond about following in the footsteps of Trey Parker and his previous cult success.

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Christopher Bond

Comics Gaming Magazine: I remember seeing posters for your stage shoow of Cannibal: The Musical years ago after one of the first big Evil Dead: The Musical runs. What happened?

Christopher Bond: Yeah, there were a couple of things. We started going down this path while Evil Dead: The Musical was in Toronto. We got in touch with Jason McHugh who produced Cannibal: The Musical and said, “Hey, we’ve had this success with Evil Dead and we’ve got a super great audience who likes this type of theater and I think this would really fall in line with what our audience wants. But that said, we’d like to spruce it up a bit and give it the full feature musical treatment.” We wanted to change the structure a bit and write new songs, so at first they were like, “No.” (Laughs) Then we came back and told them that we had composed Evil Dead after that opened in the US and they said, “Oh we’ve heard of that. Go ahead and write the songs, but it probably won’t happen.” So we did and they said, “Hey, these are pretty good. Maybe we can try this and see if it works out.”

So that was forever ago and we were just going to do it in a little 100-seat theater and maybe move to a bigger space later. People were pumped for it and we were excited. Then all of a sudden we got two phone calls. The first was from Jason saying, “Yeah, Trey Parker’s working on this musical about Mormons, so we’ve got to put a hold on this for a while.” We were like, “Well, how good could that be? This won’t take long.” Whoops! (Laughs) Yeah, it’s the best show ever. Then the Diesel theatre shut down, which was a bummer because that’s where we did all of stuff. So we put it on a shelf and then a couple of years ago Book Of Mormon had played for a while and Jason told us that we could revisit it. So now we’re here.

CGM: Yeah, I wondered if Book Of Mormon was a factor because the timing was weirdly similar.

CB: Yeah, it was and what can you do? Obviously they did the right thing. That seemed to work out. (Laughs)

Book Of Mormon
Book Of Mormon

CGM: So have you gotten to meet Trey Parker through this process?

CB: Not really. We send everything through Jason. He’s our contact, but Trey is fully aware of the show and the new content. So we’ve got his authorization. That’s all we really know. We have their approval and we’ve sent them everything. We got some feedback too, which was fun. Just little notes about making sure this joke goes here and that sort of thing. So we’ve been working with those guys a bit, but have I met Trey Parker personally? No, sadly not. We’re hoping that he’ll swing by and see the show at some point. But he’s kind of a big fish. So who knows? Jason McHugh’s been pretty involved though and that’s been great. We like the show. It’s funny. It’s irreverent. If you know the movie and there are iconic moments you love, it’s all there. But it’s also filled with new stuff and new characters. A proper structure and bookends and all that great musical theater stuff.

CGM: I’d imagine the success of Book Of Mormon didn’t hurt when you were finally able to mount the play.

CB: Oh sure! If you like that show, you’ll like this. It’s also edgy, but it’s ridiculous. This is a really silly comedy and we try to make that clear right from the top. It’s crazy zany fun a la Trey Parker and we hope that Toronto digs it.

Book Of Mormon
Book Of Mormon

CGM: Yeah, I can’t wait. A VHS copy of Cannibal: The Musical was actually the first thing that I ever bought off of Amazon back in high school.

CB: Yeeeah!

CGM: I’d imagine since we’re around the same age that you had a similar experience with South Park. It was kind of special for me since the show and their satire matured along with me as I grew up. So, all of those weird little projects that they did first were like holy grails.

CB: Totally. You have to discover Cannibal: The Musical. I remember watching the South Park movie for the first time and thinking, “This is the greatest thing that I’ve ever seen in my life.” I was a big musical theater guy and to see characters fart and sing at the same time just blew my mind. When we were writing the music for Evil Dead, we’d reference the South Park movie all the time. That was a big inspiration for us, so of course we went back and looked at everything they’d done before like Orgazmo and BASEketball. But Cannibal you really have to dig for. You have to dig through the Troma library somewhere. It’s not exactly a blockbuster. So to take it and turn it into a big stage musical has been amazing. We’re really pumped.

CGM: Was it intimidating for you to write new jokes and songs that would have to stand alongside material that Trey Parker wrote?

CB: Yeah, totally! It’s Trey Parker. He’s the best and we’re just a bunch of funky Canadian kids. You know, we think we’re pretty funny. But who knows? We’re trying to keep in his style and hopefully we’ve given it a life in a few areas. You know, we’re just going for it and anything they don’t like we’ll cut. We’re all above board, but we think we’ve come up with some nice new stuff to spice it up and then all of the old stuff you love is there too. So, it’s a nice blend.

CGM:Even the Japanese/Indian section?

CB: Oh yeah. (Laughs) Yep, we couldn’t lose that. That’s edgy and tricky, but it’s been getting great responses.

L-R Marty Adams, Mark Andrada, Trevor Martin, Liam Tobin, Lana Carillo and Tim Porter photo by Dahlia Katz
L-R Marty Adams, Mark Andrada, Trevor Martin, Liam Tobin, Lana Carillo and Tim Porter photo by Dahlia Katz

CGM: And after Evil Dead: The Musical, I’m assuming that you won’t be skimping on the gore in any way. What do you have the actors eating for human flesh?

CB: Well, I can’t tell you what it is. Come on. But obviously if you’re coming to a show called Cannibal: The Musical, there will be some gore. But it’s not all about that. The story is more the adventure of a group of friends traveling through the Rocky Mountains. But yeah, some people do get eaten. So you’re going to see some stuff. There are some effects and some cool ideas and I think people will dig it. I will say that we don’t spray blood on the audience like Evil Dead. But there are definitely some effects.

CGM: Did you get to tour around the world with Evil Dead: The Musical?

CB: Well, I didn’t go to the Korean show. My partner did and he loved it. But yeah, we were really fortunate that made it all over the world. Some of the shows we produced and some of the shows other people produced. It was really cool to see other people do your stuff. Hopefully Trey Parker feels the same way (Laughs). So, yeah I’ve seen the Vegas show, I even went to a high school production in Niagara Falls. They called me up and said they were doing it, so I went by. It was amazing. They had a chorus of 30 zombie kids.

CGM: So the principal didn’t shut that show down like the recent high school production?

CB: Oh yeah, I almost forgot about that. That was weird. The one that we saw rewrote it to take all the swears out. So the song “What The Fuck Was That” became “What The Heck Was That.” But it was perfect. We’re fine with that. It exciting just to see things that you worked on grow and have their own life like that.

Evil Dead: The Musical opening night Toronto 2013 – PHOTO BY JACKLYN ATLAS

CGM: Was there ever any traction with making a movie of Evil Dead: The Musical? I remember hearing something about that a while ago.

CB: There was some conversation and interest. But what happened was that Sam Raimi decided to do the remake and now they’re making a TV show. We still have dreams of making a movie, but at the moment it’s not happening. We’ve got some people interested and some excited producers. It started moving along, but then Sam said, “Sorry guys, we’re doing the remake!” So you know, what can you do? That’s his baby.

CGM: So he did get to see it then? Because I know Bruce Campbell was a big fan, but I wasn’t sure if Sam ever got around to seeing it.

CB: Well, it’s been out there for so long now that I don’t know if he’s ever actually been to the show. I know that he’s seen video of it because he got in touch with us about it, which was great. But, Bruce has seen it a zillion times and he’s very supportive. You know, I don’t want to take credit for reinvigorating their brand, but it couldn’t have hurt to have our musical out there.

L-R Liam Tobin, Marty Adams, Mark Andrada (bottom), Mike 'Nug" Nahrgang, Tim Porter and Trevor Martin photo by Dahlia Katz
L-R Liam Tobin, Marty Adams, Mark Andrada (bottom), Mike ‘Nug” Nahrgang, Tim Porter and Trevor Martin photo by Dahlia Katz

CGM: Do you have any original, oddball horror musical projects that you’ve been working on as well?

CB: Nothing yet. So far I’m just piggy-backing off of other people’s amazing talent.  (Laughs) We’ve done a few other things. I’ve written a couple films. My writing partner Trevor Martin and I wrote the movie A Little Bit Zombie for Anchor Bay. So we’ve done a couple of movies and we’ve actually got a television series in development right now that’s an original musical series. So, you know, we’ve got some original projects coming down the pipe. But in terms of a stage musical, all of the focus has been on Cannibal: The Musical right now.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Movie Review 3

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Movie Review

2014 has been one hell of a summer for comic book movies with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and Guardians Of The Galaxy all feeling like new classics of the genre. So it only makes sense that the summer movie season wrap up with one last jaunt down comic book lane in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For. It’s been almost a decade since Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez made audiences’ eyeballs round the world explode with an at-the-time experimental combination of animation and live action filmmaking that vividly brought the pages of Sin City to life like few other comic adaptations ever have. So much time had passed that the long overdue sequel risked feeling like a relic given that the production style has long since been standardized. Thankfully and surprisingly, A Dame To Kill For works pretty much from the first frame. The movie isn’t exactly high art, but it sure plays like glorious trash, offering some damn fine filth for audiences worn down after a summer of kiddie fare. There’s something downright admirable about Miller and Rodriguez’s commitment to delivering the raging id fantasies of a perverted 15-year-old with absolutely no concessions made to political correctness or good taste. Even when the movie fails, you’ve at least got to laugh at the audacity it took to do so.
sincity2insert1Things kick off with a brief prologue in which Mickey Rourke’s Marv returns to action and doles out a big steaming pile of violence without quite understanding why. Like the first movie, it’s a very direct adaptation of one of Miller’s comic stories. Later on, the titular A Dame To Kill For is also played out verbatim with Josh Brolin’s grizzled photographer getting into a series of blood-soaked tussles while being manipulated by the delightfully vamping Eva Green. The other two stories in the film were written fresh by Frank and feel exactly the same (in the best possible sense). Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an obscenely lucky gambler who engages in a battle of wits with Basin City crimelord Powers Boothe and ends up punished severely enough to enlist the filthy alley surgeon services of Christopher Lloyd. Finally, a wrap-around narrative sees Jessica Alba return to her role as a heroine stripper, this time chugging booze and training to seek revenge against Boothe in between visions of Bruce Willis’ ghost (who looks like he maybe spent 15 minutes on set and wasn’t thrilled about it). Just like the last movie, the stories bob and weave together, but mostly stand alone, This concoction does play a little smoother than the last movie though, movie likely because it was written to function as a single movie rather than adapted entirely from previously existing stories.
[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]“The most surprising aspect of Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is simply that it still works all these years later.”[/pullquote]
The most surprising aspect of Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is simply that it still works all these years later. There’s no dramatic shift in the formula beyond updated animation software and some eye-gouging 3D (Rodriguez is one of the few filmmakers who embraces the gimmickry of 3D and delivers some wonderfully goofy pop-out shots here). Other than that, the movie is simply more of the same and not in a bad way. All of the gorgeous monochrome images, absurd slapstick violence, overcooked dialogue, objectified fantasy women, and monstrous depictions of men return. Sin City is essentially a peak into Miller’s deepest and darkest fantasies and while he should never go over that material with a psychologist, it sure is fun to watch in a sick and slick way. There’s no denying that the film is incredible to look at and a hell of a lot of guilty pleasure fun. The fact that there’s essentially no meaning or purpose beyond the glossy surface, booze, boobs, and blood is practically the point. A Dame To Kill For is style as substance as imagined by the noir obsessed comic book guru Frank Miller and the neo-exploitation trash master Robert Rodriguez (who has made a few bad movies, but never a boring one). If you can’t have fun with them, you might not be capable of experiencing the emotion known as “fun.”

Clearly the actors are all having fun with returning Sin City vets like Rourke, Alba, and Boothe slipping right back into their roles like a dame in a satin gown and the new faces add nothing but good to the proceedings. Brolin is at his frowny/growly best, Levitt can barely contain the joy he’s experiencing beneath a smirk, Christopher Lloyd reminds everyone why he should be constantly employed, and Stacey Keach steals his single scene under a mountain of monster make up. Yet, the best part of the whole movie is Eva Green, who is so mesmerizingly evil as the titular dame that she makes a 2D caricature feel three dimensional (she’s also mesmerizingly naked for most of the film if your disgusting mind cares about such things). For all the technical show off set pieces that Miller and Rodriguez employ oh-so-well, the film works best when the cast have some meat to chew on beyond dishing out ultra-violence and the filmmakers may have even assembled a better cast this time out.

Of course, it would be idiotic to pretend that Sin City: A Dame To Kill For is perfect. It’s excessive, overdone, meaningless, offensive to anyone who clings to good taste, and brings nothing new to the series that wasn’t accomplished in the last movie. If you hated the last Sin City, then you’ll hate this one for all the same reasons. However, it’s also a sequel that manages to live up to the original movie while aping everything that went well last time. That’s harder to pull off than it sounds, especially with nine years separating the two productions. Like all of the best Robert Rodriguez productions, it’s a riot of trash entertainment that is completely unapologetic in its desire to titillate and thrill above all else. He is the modern B-movie master in the purest sense, sticking to the hard R origins of 70s exploitation without any pretensions of art or concessions to a family friendly audience. The Sin City movies just might be the highlight of the work he does at Troublemaker Studios and it’s a pleasant surprise that despite the endless delays, he’s delivered he’s a sequel that’s an equal. Whether that’s good or horrible news depends entirely on how you felt about the last movie and you’ve had nine years to work that out. Just make sure to see it in 3D if you go. It’s actually worth it for once.

The Raid 2 (Movie) Review 1

The Raid 2 (Movie) Review

The Raid: Redemption was a wonderfully nasty little action movie that came out of nowhere to tickle the shrivelled hearts of fans of blood soaked entertainment in 2011. The instant cult classic was a perfectly structured bit of B-movie bliss. A few minutes of set up, followed by 90 minutes of exquisitely crafted carnage that mixed and mashed all the best elements of vintage John Carpenter, vintage Jackie Chan, Ong Bak, Die Hard, and a few dozen other action classics that clearly played on a loop in Wales-transplant writer/director Gareth Evans’ brain while he created a new genre classic in Indonesia. Before his breakout film was released, Evans cleverly sold off the remake rights specifically to finance a sequel. That money went along way in Indonesia and now he’s returned with a sequel that ramps up a claustrophobic caper into a full on crime epic. Given that brevity and a deliberately small scale played such a large role in the original flick’s success, The Raid 2’s narrative excess is particularly evident. Yet, there’s also no denying that it boasts some of the most visceral action sequences ever caught on film. With this genre, that goes a long way.

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There’s been a lot of hype about how The Raid 2 opens two hours after the end of the original film, but those expecting a direct continuation have gotten the ol’ bait n’ switch. Sure, Evans picks things up immediately, but only to kill off every single surviving character other than star/fight choreographer/honest cop Iko Uwais so that he can be sent on a brand-spanking new adventure. A confusingly chronology-bending first act sends him into prison to infiltrate the city’s top crime family undercover a la The Departed (and Infernal Affairs and many others). There’s a big, muddy, gruesome prison fight scene in the middle, shot in remarkable single takes to keep the target ADD audience in check, but really Evans has only started winding up the narrative. Once Uwais is released, we’re introduced to a wide cast of local crime heavies who are then weaved into a complex narrative knot of double-crossing, betrayal, and murder. Evans is clearly aiming for a crime epic along the lines of Heat and does a decent job. The trouble is that those ambitions don’t necessarily play into either the filmmaker or his franchise’s strengths. Thankfully, he also creates a number of comically ramped up crime movie types for Uwais to battle in what amounts to an hour-long action climax staged across an entire city. There’s an evil crime lord with a comb over and a cane (Alex Abbad), an overambitious/psychotic son of another crime lord (Arfin Putra), and a collection of hard fighting sidekicks, most memorably the hilarious duo of Baseball Boy and Hammer Girl (named after their weapons of choice).

The plot can stop n’ start with irritating awkwardness, but it’s capably written and wonderfully acted. However, beyond expanding the running time to an ill-conceived 2.5 hours, it doesn’t add much. The real heart of the movie lies in the set pieces and much like The Raid they are mind-meltingly spectacular. Evans’ directorial genius lies in knowing how to expertly shoot and craft a fight scene to rival the finest martial arts epics, but without ever stylizing the fights to the point of feeling like a Crouching Tiger dance. The indigenous Indonesian fight style used depends on full contact and along with some added gore, the fight scenes offer the relatable pain and gleefully splattered blood of a horror flick. Only a few movies into his career, Evans has made a name for himself as one of the current masters of the genre and he fills The Raid 2 with the greatest action scenes you’ll see all year. Part of the reason why it’s so thrilling is that no two action scenes feel alike. There’s a filthy prison brawl, a heart-poundingly dangerous car chase, a kitchen showdown that uses all possible tools for impalement, and a few morbidly hilarious slapstick showdowns involving the aforementioned baseball/hammer duo (who really deserve a spin off movie right now).

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Each and every one of those action scenes (and others) are so brilliantly conceived and expertly executed that any problems with narrative overload are easily forgiven. It’s the type of movie that will force packed movie houses to explode with laughter and applause even if viewers aren’t normally inclined to react to movies vocally. The set pieces are just that good and in a nice blast from the past are all executed physically through mixture of masterful choreography and an almost reckless disregard for physical safety that would never happen in Hollywood. Gareth Evans has already proven himself to be so gosh darn good at genre filmmaking that a Hollywood pilgrimage is inevitable and deserved (he will have his own superhero franchise within the next 5 years, guaranteed). However, hopefully that won’t move the filmmaker out of Indonesia permanently. The guy has created an astounding little action movie factory there that only just seems to be hitting its stride. It would be a real shame to bust up the party early.

 

300: Rise Of An Empire (2014) Review 1

300: Rise Of An Empire (2014) Review

In the ancient days of 2006, the young picture-maker Zack (son of Snyder) did see fit to honor the ancient Spartans’ homoerotic heroism. Armed with the artistically xenophobic and ultra-violent words of the sire Frank Miller, young Snyder did prove to separate the masses from their pouches of silver. An eye-tingling combination of CGI, preposterous beards, greased male bodies, and blood-spattered battle did charm the lords and maidens of the land and a hit was born. T’was thought that the tale was one-and-done, but lo’ the moneymakers at Warner Brothers did see fit to continue the saga and slay the masses with a plague of sequels. Thus, 300: Rise Of An Empire was unleashed upon this humble movie-servant’s eyes. I was pillaged by 3D limb shedding, gratuitous nudity, a wondrously campy performance from the good lady Eva Green, and needlessly grandiose dialogue like the words that flicker before your eye-holes now. The second coming of the Spartans did not prove to cleanse my soul or right my ways, but the R-rated spectacle did raise my pulse and thus I did not hate the sights I cannot unsee.

300: Rise of an Empire

So yeah, if you saw 300, you can pretty much guess what you’re getting here. Aside from some recycled footage from the first flick, Gerard Butler isn’t back and without Snyder calling the shots, the slo-mo/fast-mo action scenes are toned down considerably. Other than that, it’s more of the same (though he did write the script and it shows in all the worst ways). Our bearded, shirtless, pantless hero this time is Sullivan Stapleton, whose Australian tones fill the mouth of Themistocles Of Athens. With the Persian army still a threat, the Greek armies have united to combine their forces. They are still outnumbered of course, but they growl louder than the bad guys and grease their bodies up like pro-wrestlers, so you gotta’ love em! Sullivan’s task is to lead the Greek naval fleet into battle against the much larger Persian fleet. The evil army is led by Artemesia (Eva Green), a Greek castaway turned warrior Queen who is not only beautiful and a killing machine, but was also secretly responsible for the sexually ambiguous Persian God-king’s rise to power. There’s more plot going on than what was just described, and it’s constantly laid out in needlessly grandiose and confusingly wordy voiceover. Thankfully, it doesn’t matter much. All that matters is that you understand Frank Miller’s racially sensitive message of Greeks = good, Persians = bad and keep track of who’s who as the endless battle scenes unfold.

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First off, it has to be noted that 300: Rise Of An Empire pushes its R rating harder than any studio action film in recent memory. Director Noam Murro’s primary goal with the film seems to have been to set the Guinness World Record for most blood flung at a 3D camera. Despite the faux-profound dialogue, Murro essentially shoved any sense of historical drama self-importance aside to make a 70s exploitation movie with a 2014 Hollywood budget. When the movie hits its high points, that seems like it was a noble goal. The trouble is that as everyone who has watched their share of 70s exploitation movies knows, they are generally crap. Sure Murro stages some gorgeously disgusting violence, but the ham-fisted storytelling undercuts the gratuitous pleasures more often than not. All of the heroes are indistinguishable in personality and recognizable only by facial hair. The simple narrative feels needlessly complex thanks to clunky voiceover and needlessly stylized dialogue. Granted, these were problems with the original film as well. But at least there was strong enough narrative through-line and enough charismatic actors to make the material easy to follow/swallow. The only reason to watch this movie is for the hard-R mayhem and sadly the irritating self-serious storytelling makes that almost impossible to enjoy.

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Actually, I’m being too harsh. There is one other major pleasure beyond the violence: Eva Green. Though she’s given dialogue just as horrendous as her castmates, Green has served up a deliciously vampy female villain the likes of which is rarely seen in Hollywood and she runs with it. Green’s deliriously unhinged performance breathes life to the digitally manufactured “epic” every time she’s onscreen, and she commits fully to the role in a way that is almost hypnotic (she has one sex scene that’s shot like a fight sequence and has to be seen to be believed). If Green had a hero as compelling as her to bounce off of, 300: Rise Of An Empire might have ended up being at least as good as the original flick. Sadly, that’s not the case. This sequel is pretty mediocre in most ways, but does certainly hit some high notes whenever blood is being shed in ridiculously stylized ways, Green acts up a storm, or both. If you enjoyed 300, the flick is certainly worth a look for its gratuitous highs. However, aside from the 3D, it might be a film best enjoyed at home with a fast-forward button on hand to speed through the many rough patches. Approach with caution and under no circumstance should you consider making the film a family outing. Well, unless you want to give your children a reason to see a psychiatrist in 15 years, of course. In that case, hat’s off to ya’, family man!

Machete Kills (Movie) Review 3

Machete Kills (Movie) Review

That decapitatin’, mustached wonder known as Machete might not be the first in-joke turned into a film, but it must be the first time a private joke turned into a franchise. Dreamed up while killing time between shots on Desperado (back when Robert Rodriguez wasn’t also his entire crew and had time for such things), Machete was a private joke and fantasy of a B-movie franchise that RR and his muse Danny Trejo referenced in Spy Kids and turned into a fake trailer for Grindhouse. Then the public got in on the joke and found it just as funny as its resourceful creators. So, in 2010 we got a feature length Machete sketch and now Danny Trejo returns to the role he was born to play in the sequel Machete Kills. As you’d expect, the same joke does get tired when repeated ad nauseam, so there’s no denying that Machete Kills doesn’t quite offer the same gut punch of hilarity we all got back when the initial Grindhouse trailer was released. However, the flick offers plenty of filthy laughs, plays right to the strengths of its creators, and brings in a bunch of talented folks slumming for the sake of fun. It’s not exactly art, but it can be damn entertaining. Although, a third movie might be a step too far, even if the sequel opens up with a trailer for it.

That’s right before we get a chance to see Machete Kills, Rodriguez treats the audience to a trailer for Machete Kills… In Space. It’s pretty hysterical, throwing a lightsaber machete in Danny Trejo’s hands for an homage to the old gore n’ nudity packed exploitation Star Wars knockoffs like Galaxy Of Terror.  From there, the sequel goes back into comfortable Machete territory, only this time any sense of the boarder-hopping mild political commentary of the original is ditched in favor of a James Bond parody starring Machete. That’s probably a wise way to go given that the original film ran out of things to say fast and was dragged down a bit by its attempts at political relevance. So Danny Trejo is given a Q in the form of a beauty queen by played by Amber Heard. She stops drooling over our hero just long enough to send him on a mission from the president of the United States (played by Charlie Sheen… who else?). You see, a maniac Mexican gangster (Demian Bichir) has a nuked strapped to his heart that could blow up the US unless Machete stops it. So that’s what happens, and along the way he re-teams with Michelle Rodriguez’s one-eyed killing machine, deals with a psychotic prostitute who has weaponized all of her genitals (Sofia Vergara), and is pursued by an assassin who assumes the face of too many celebrity cameos to spoil. Then somewhere around the third act, the movie transforms into a prequel for Machete Kills…In Space when Mel Gibson is introduced as a billionaire Bond villain who is also clearly a Star Wars fan. Yep, it’s that kind of movie.

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It goes without saying that Machete Kills is meaningless and idiotic. That’s the whole point and Robert Rodriguez is one of the best filmmakers around at whipping up meaninglessly idiotic fun. He may have made his most money cranking out Spy Kids movies, but Rodriguez’s true talent is in tongue-in-cheek exploitation like the Desperado movies, Grindhouse, Sin City, and now the Machete series. Countless bodies are blown up, chopped up, disemboweled, and machine-gunned, but not a single drop of blood is shed without a laugh. The Machete movies are comedies first and action flicks second, and Machete Kills pushes that tone about as far as possible. The film is episodic by design and has the same hit-to-miss ratio of a sketch comedy movie. That can make it feel unsatisfying at times, but only if you expect the Machete sequel to somehow feel like a normal movie. It’s not. This is a lark between friends and a good one. No one involved with the project took it seriously even for a second and thankfully the audience is spared the indignity of having to do that as well.

At the center of it all is, of course, Danny Trejo, whose face could stop a speeding train. Trejo doesn’t really act in the movie, but gives a hell of a commanding performance through blank stares and deadpan spurts of monosyllabic dialogue (at one point a racist cop tries to hang him, but Machete’s neck is too damn tough for that puny rope and the look on Trejo’s face at that moment provides possibly the biggest laugh of the film). Trejo’s main squeeze from the last movie Jessica Alba is dispatched early, and it’s a wise choice. Alba might be beautiful, but she never quite had the chops to play her sexualized stereotype with the knowing humor that Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Heard, and Sofia Vergara manage here, and that helps all the bad taste humor go down much more smoothly. Demian Bichir is a wonderfully ludicrous villain until he is dispatched and replaced by Mel Gibson, whose comedic timing and star presence is so strong that he almost steals the film and almost makes you forget all those racist rants (“almost” is the key word). In accordance with Rodriguez’s fast n’ cheap shooting style, the entire supporting cast is filled up with star cameos who popped up for a few days of shooting and all of them seem to revel in the filthy fun Rodriguez provided. Charlie Sheen might provide the funniest of the cameos for being the only big screen president to ever use hippy slang and agreeing to be credited by his birth name Carlos Estevez.

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Still, any movie that can list a Charlie Sheen cameo as a strength obviously isn’t setting the bar very high. Machete Kills is unapologetically Z-grade entertainment. Sure, it’s self-conscious Z-grade entertainment to avoid too much guilt from the audience, but still a movie designed for that special class of viewer who consider helicopter disembowelment to be friggin’ hilarious. At this point, the Machete series won’t win over any new fans. You know if you find the joke funny by now and if you enjoyed the last Machete product, this one at least lives up to the brand name. There are plenty of flaws, but one of the fringe benefits of making a deliberately cheesy movie is that all the mistakes and misconceived ideas feel like part of the style. When the film wraps up, you might even want to see Machete Kills… In Space. I’d definitely buy a ticket if that title actually got a real movie but at the same time, it feels like Machete Kills was a victory lap for everyone involved. It’s kind of insane this franchise even exists and not a bad idea for Trejo and Rodriguez to get out while they are ahead. In fact, all of the sci-fi elements of the film feel like Robert Rodriguez auditioning for a job directing one of Disney’s new Star Wars movies rather than setting up a third Machete chapter. Hopefully Disney can look past all the boobs, bloodshed, and bad taste to notice. If Rodriguez can make something this entertaining out of a concept this thin and a budget this low, just imagine what he could do with a $100 million Boba Fett flick. That movie will be made anyways, so the job could (and probably will) go to someone much worse.