I’ve had to review a few of these things now and a good rule of thumb is, if it was made after the end of the 70s, you could watch some youtube clips of blood packs going off, remember the time you found your dad’s porn collection and still walk away more fulfilled.
Exploitation cinema has its place, It harkens back to film’s rebellious teenage years when it stopped trying to live up to its parent’s wishes, got into sex and violence and sat in dive-bars trying to sound cool all the time. When it works it is glorious, fun and sometimes extremely influential on popular culture; without George Romero I doubt very much people at work would be talking about a zombie TV series on a major American network. The films from that golden age of schlock were sprung from an effort to try something new, at their core, the ones that have stood the test of time, offer something memorable or unique amidst the prerequisite gore and violence. The films were made cheap out of necessity and corners could be cut on little things like story and acting because audiences didn’t really expected anything more than shock value and some ballsy one-liners.
Even with those low expectations it’s hard to recommend Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman. The film is billed as a modern exploitation film in the mold of Machete but it seems to be caught between paying homage to this, and the secondary objective of creating a film version of a Grand Theft Auto game. This in spite of the fact that the Grand Theft Auto games are constantly drawing from films for inspiration or directly parodying them (Somebody call Christopher Nolan to explain this paradox to me, I’m scared.). Unfortunately it is ‘mission failed’ on both counts mostly because the film doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to do.
Coming in at the apologetic length of just over an hour the film is keen to tell us central character and nightclub DJ Santiago (Matías Oviedo) is a video game addict, though he only spends 30 seconds playing a game before he volunteers to hunt down scantily clad, bounty hunter ‘The Machine Gun Woman’ after getting caught with his trousers down.
What follows is almost fifty adrenaline pumping minutes of fake film-effect, padded out by prolonged slow-motion perv-shots of Fernanda Urrejola in her titular role, awkward silences between half-hearted lines of dialogue and videogame style driving sequences where road safety rules are strictly adhered to.
The film does have one memorable and hilarious death scene and the game inspired driving camera is very authentic but to the point of being detrimental. The driving view in video games is chosen so you can see where you’re going, it’s a practical choice and boring to watch (ask anyone’s younger sibling). Beyond the initial recognition of the reference it feels like just another throw-back to something else and another area in which the director seems afraid of doing anything of his own.
The soundtrack is appropriately gamey in places with some good synth influences that are a little out of place but good enough for you not to mind the first few times you hear them. And there’s the ubiquitous reverb laden lo-fi guitar track, because those are in other films right?
Homage is an art form all of its own. Say what you want about Tarrantino but he obviously loves his source material and when he interprets (or plagiarises) it in his own way he makes you feel like you’re in on the fun. By contrast, bring me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman is a badly told knock-knock joke where the punch line is a gun in skimpy shorts.
Unless I’ve misread and this film is actually a treatise on the psychological effects of violent games on young people, I can safely say Bring me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman doesn’t have much to offer, even for fans of the various subgenres under exploitation. Watch the trailer instead, it’s great.
Words> Thom Haley