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[Fantastic Fest Review]…Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman

Yep. That’s really the title and just another reason why this festival has such a large draw and wide appeal, especially for those film fans who want something outside the norm. With Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman, writer/director Ernesto Díaz Espinoza makes a fine addition to the series of Grindhouse films that have popped up in the last decade or so. While some sub-par releases have diluted this fun throwback sub-genre and B-Movie revival, Espinoza, like he has with Mirageman and Mandrill, gives hope for the movement and an example for those who will follow his footsteps. There’s an authenticity that rises above gimmick or fun solely for inebriates, possibly because it’s foreign but mainly because it’s quite good; the perfect combination of humor, camp, and hard-boiled action.

Set in present-day Chile, where life resembles the Wild West, scores of stone cold killers run the streets and each of them has an attractive bounty on their heads. The most lethal of which is the attractive, scantily clad, heavily armed Machine Gun Woman and like anyone at the top she’s always looking over her shoulder for someone to take her out. For reasons unknown (possibly because she takes out all the competition…or maybe it was me, you do lose some plot not reading the subtitles while taking review notes) Che Longana has it in for Machine Gun Woman and has been employing unsavory assassins to take her out with no results save for scores of dead bounty hunters. But in a case of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Santiago (the DJ at Che’s club) volunteers to bring him the head of the Machine Gun Woman…but only to save his own life.

Espinoza doesn’t need anything flashy (and in this type of film flashy need not apply) but he lets the artistry speak for itself. Imagine if you will what a Western would look life if it were imagined through the stylings of Grand Theft Auto. Sounds like an ambitious little experiment but that’s exactly what Ernesto set out to do; make an experiment. It’s gritty, harsh, unrefined and everything you’ve come to expect in these types of films. Espinoza takes a cue from the video game generation and makes his own B-movie/video game that owes a lot of credit to GTA. Here though, the hook of the film is not purely a shoot em up film with comic book-like characters. It’s a kind of underdog love story that is at times brutal but with a great sense of odd humor.

Speaking of games, it’s not just thematically derivative of a video game but in a narrative sense as well. Santiago’s world turns upside down as he, starting essentially at level 1, gets his mission, then goes on a quest to find guns, dodge bad guys, get the girl and then deliver her to save his own ass. Through a series of humorous and pretty violent encounters Santiago (and with some help from the Machine Gun Woman herself), makes his way to the top, all the way driven by an awesome electronic soundtrack composed by Espinoza regular Rocco. Espinoza does a lot with his short run time and delivers something simple, swift and action-packed replete with all the familiar third person car scenes, GTA inspired text and graphics. Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman is high-octane fun, that is loose, fast and just a solid win for any and all genre film fan.

But when this surprisingly short feature was over, people who might have been wanting more got a little treat. One of the most entertaining parts of the screening was the Q&A that followed with Espinoza and Machine Gun Woman herself in attendance. The writer/director explained that his whole intent was to create a Latin Exploitation movement and with a little luck it should catch on. If others are as breezy and entertaining as this ride, it probably will. They say that there’s art in adversity and that brevity is the soul of wit which both completely apply to the rapid fire 15 days shoot on a shoe-sting budget. Makes you wonder how much it would have been improved if Espinoza had more resources at his disposal. So will we see Machine Gun Woman 2: The Rise of Santiago? Can’t say yet, but pretty sure everyone in the theaters is already holding their breath for a sequel.

Disclaimer: Now the rating above may imply that Machine Gun Woman wasn’t a well made or entertaining film. Not the case at all. If it looks cheap that’s because that was intended (like Hobo With A Shotgun). It’s just that based on the narrative and elements in this so-called experiment, when run through our rating system just doesn’t yield an appealing rating. But trust me when I say that like Mirageman and Mandrill, Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman is worth searching out. Go see it, Ahora!