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Hacksaw Ridge – ★ ★ ★ ★ DVD Review

Hacksaw Ridge40

Hacksaw Ridge is based on the true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), a pacifist who joined the army and served during the Battle of Okinawa.  Doss refuses to kill people and even refuses to carry a weapon, but he still receives the Medal of Honour without every having fired a shot. Doss thought it was his duty to serve his country, but his religion (he was a Seventh Day Adventist) clearly stated “thou shalt not kill”, so he enrolled as a medic.  Doss suffered through the hardships of basic training where his fellow soldiers hazed him to drum him out of their outfit, a court-marshal hearing because he would not pick up a weapon for any reason (including training), and finally to the battlefield where he witnessed the horrors of war first hand.

This was one of the better looking “war films” that I have seen.  The visuals were graphic, but authentic looking.  The sound was incredible.  The tone of the story and the pace of the action were both exceptional.  I’m not a big fan of Andrew Garfield (I really didn’t like his Spider-Man, or more specifically his Peter Parker), but he did a very good job playing Desmond Doss.  The performance came across as very real and very believable.  Teresa Palmer was very good as his wife Dorothy, as was Hugo Weaving as his father.  A pleasant surprise came in Vince Vaughn as Sgt. Howell who we first met at basic training.  Howell originally seemed to be against Doss, but you could see that he was really just acting out of concern for all the soldiers in his company.  He may not have agreed with Doss’ thoughts or morals but he did always treat Doss fairly, even if he was a little rough.  Eventually he does understand Doss and recognizes the courage inside him.

The film wasn’t perfect of course, there were a few liberties taken.  The film makes it appear as though Doss rescues 75 injured men in a single night, but in actuality this occurred over the course of several weeks and many battles.  I understand making that change, it does make the story flow better.  I though the film looked very authentic, but was disappointed to see that a lot of the battle “blood” appeared to be CGI.  I think for all the trouble they went to of making practical effects for the fighting and the stunts, they would have used old fashioned blood packets too.  Ah well, CGI blood is a lot cheaper than fake blood and squibs, and the film was done on a relatively small $40 million budget.  All in all, it was a very interesting look at a story I didn’t know anything about.

Bottom Line: It’s safe to say that Mel Gibson has had some problems over the last ten years or so, but Hacksaw Ridge shows that he is still one heck of a director.


Machete Kills – DVD Review 2/5 stars

Product Details2 Stars

Machete Kills was just a giant let down.  All the magic that made me love the first one was pretty much gone.  In Machete, the plot was simple but at the same time well laid out; the gun fights, fist fights, knife fights were all well shot and well paced.  In fact, the pace didn’t really let up; in Machete Kills, the pace never got a chance to establish itself.  The action was not nearly as fast and furious as the first film and the plot was over-complicated.  The whole film stunk like a bunch of kids making a film with all their buddies in their backyard.  To a degree this is true, Robert Rodriguez was writer, director, DP, producer, editor, and probably even caterer.  You name it, he likely did it on the Machete films, and his production company and even special effects company are, I believe, housed on his property.

Could the success of the first film have derailed the potential of the sequel?  One thing that struck me as I watched Machete Kills was that there were a lot of characters in this film.  I thought there were way too many.  Did all of Rodriguez’s friends find out how much fun the first film was and ask to be included?  It seems that way, because the plot just gets more and more ridiculous and includes more and more people.  It does have a very good cast with Danny Trejo leading Mel Gibson, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Charlie Sheen (or Carlos Estevez if you will), Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Marko Zaror and even a returning Jessica Alba.  But really the “too many cooks” theory comes back into play.  Too many “big” actors, each needing some screen time diluted the product too much this time.  It’s true there was a large cast in the first film as well, but second time around, it all felt kind of forced.

As the story went on (I can’t in good conscience really call it a plot), I slowly started to dislike Machete Kills to a degree I didn’t think I could.  First Machete and Sartana (Alba) try to stop a team of dirty US soldiers who are selling weapons to a Mexican cartel, weapons that also include a bomb.  Machete is brought in by an Arizona sheriff and hung for his involvement in the deaths of thirty cartel members, but is saved by a call from the President who needs Machete to stop a crazed cartel leader from launching the bomb from earlier at Washington.  Machete gets to the cartel leader through his favourite prostitute, now the rest of the brothel is on Machete’s trail.  The cartel leader activates the bomb which is wired into his heart, so if he dies, the bomb launches.  Even if he doesn’t die it launches in 24 hours anyway.  So Machete has to find someone to disarm the bomb in the cartel leader’s chest.  But wait, he’s a schizophrenic cartel leader who was really a secret agent under cover in the cartels, who grew disillusioned with the mission and became a revolutionary freedom fighter leader…who sometimes reverts to being a crazy cartel leader.  Voz (Mel Gibson) is the man who invented the cartel leaders bomb technology and is the ultimate bad guy pulling the strings.  He’s got a space ship ready to take a bunch of rich people (and kidnapped Mexican labourers) to his space station where they’ll wait out the anarchy caused by his bomb and then return to rule the earth.  Of course since Mexican labourers are being kidnapped Michelle Rodriguez’s organization Shé is on the track of Voz as well, even though at first it appeared to them as though “aliens were kidnapping aliens” (one of the very few clever lines in the film).  We get a climactic showdown and ridiculous fights as the film ends with Machete disarming a bomb, saving the day, and preparing to head into space to stop Voz in the next film Machete Kills Again… In Space

The beginning of Machete Kills ran a trailer for Machete Kills Again… In Space, which looked ridiculously bad, but was very funny as a fake trailer that spoofed Machete into a Star Wars-esque world.  Unfortunately the film seems to have led up to that fake trailer possibly becoming a real film.  I certainly hope it doesn’t.  There were some good things in the film, Danny Trejo was good as always, but he is starting to get old.  I’m sorry, but it’s true.  He didn’t have nearly as many action scenes as he did in the first film, and his age is partially the reason.  Machete had reasonably good effects, and all the blood and gunshots were imposed in post production.  For the most part (at least what I can remember) they looked pretty good and believable.  This time around, they didn’t.  They used the same process but it looked as though it was done on the cheap and the effects looked a lot faker.  There were even some driving scenes that looked incredibly obviously green screened.

The film was fun at points and did have a few good scenes, such as Mel Gibson riding off down the road in a heavily armoured custom vehicle that could have come out of Road Warrior; Mel Gibson taking Machete on a tour of his factory in a landspeeder and saying “yeah, I like Star Wars” as they get in; and in the fake trailer they did fight with laser machetes….or light-machetes…or machete sabres…whatever they’re called, they looked pretty cool.

I’m sorry, but I expected better.

Bottom Line: I really loved the first film.  Hopefully I still can after watching the sequel.

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