Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Harry Kerwin and Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman.
Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman is not the movie that I expected it to be. Seeing a title like that I was immediately assuming that the entire thought process behind the film was, “what if Machete had tits?” However, instead of following a badass bounty hunter as she mows down countless waves of thugs and mobsters, we have a plot about a simple DJ who has gotten in over his head with some less than savory characters. Santiago overhears gangster Che Longana speaking the title of this very film out loud and upon being discovered, talks his way out of getting killed on the spot. The downside? He must track down and capture the titular character in an ever-decreasing window of time.
Off the bat, Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman can’t really decide what it wants to be. Partially it’s going for the 70’s grindhouse vibe. There’s film grain, saturated colors, and pretty much all of the music sounds like it’d be right at home in your favorite porno. Plus the ridiculously over the top plot and stylized action both scream B-Movie love. Gangsters even have their names splattered across the screen along with what their bounty adds up to every time one is introduced. On the other hand there’s this weird video game theme going on. Santiago makes references to Grand Theft Auto and is shown playing a Playstation 3. There are modern pieces of technology sprinkled throughout the film, and they include “Mission Failed” or “Mission Accomplished” title cards. Hell, they even completely ripped off the exact font used in Grand Theft Auto for those. While both support the stylized violence being portrayed, they clash with each other in a major way due to the conflicting time periods they represent. The grindhouse motif is very specific to the 70s but the video game references are so modern that it completely breaks the effect.
On the upside, the cast all do a fine job. Matias Oviedo and Fernanda Urrejola are the highlights as Santiago Fernandez and the Machine Gun Woman, respectively. When I discovered that Santiago was the main character, I really started having fun with this film. He’s totally naive to the world that he just entered and everyone treats him as such. Watching him freak out over literally everything is hilarious, and having a more relatable and human main character makes the action have a lot more impact than it would if we were following a total badass the whole time. Speaking of which, the Machine Gun Woman is handled really well, and she acts as a great foil for Santiago. I was fully expecting a pretty two dimensional character with a troubled past, but instead we get a parody of that kind of character. We see her in brief glimpses toward the start and through the bloodshed she causes. The way everyone talks about her she almost turns into some kind of a mythic figure. She’s just this symbol of pure style and violence, and it’s exciting when she actually steps onto the scene.
As you might expect, there’s a lot of action in Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman and it never stops moving, even when you’re just watching Santiago freak out. There’s always an energy to everything that’s happening. The violence is very stylized, but this isn’t a gore-fest. You’re not sitting there watching Danny Trejo swing out of a window by somebody’s intestines or anything like that. There are some incredible death scenes, but they’re only peppered throughout rather than splattered everywhere. In fact, one of the best ones is actually hidden from sight. It’s bloody, but the impact isn’t actually witnessed and it still manages to be extremely effective. Most of the time you just see lots of gunfire and squibs, and that’s fine.As the film moves on unfortunately things get a bit weaker. There’s a sex scene that serves as a turning point for both of the main characters, and from there it goes in the direction I initially expected. Attempts to humanize the Machine Gun Woman are a huge mistake. She worked way better as a force of nature and seeing her reduced to something more typical feels like a let down. Santiago steps up, but his improvement isn’t worth losing out on the previous glory of his female counterpart.
On the whole I was still really surprised by Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman. It’s a lot of fun and the cast does a great job in spite of some of the film’s issues. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza doesn’t fully commit to a style, so it’s feels a bit confused. The video game motifs and handheld cinematography clash with the 70s retro grindhouse vibe, but the action and characters make up for it, even if the ending is kind of a let down. It’s on Netflix, so I’d definitely recommend giving it a shot if you dig films like Machete or Wolfcop.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.