In Defense of… Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is a maverick filmmaker in every sense of the word. But thanks to his infatuation with lowbrow thrills, he often goes without the credit he deserves. With the release of Machete Kills now in the rearview mirror with less-than-stellar box office, the time has come to inventory the many reasons why Rodriguez deserves more respect than he gets.

 

He makes great kids' films

Rodriguez's violent B movies were made with the ornery child inside all of us firmly in mind. But he also makes films for actual children, some of which are cool enough to please genre fans of any age. Spy Kids 2, with its fun cast and loving homages to Ray Harryhausen, is particularly wonderful for those willing to give it a chance.

 

He totally resists sentiment

Robert Rodriguez doesn't want to make you cry. He doesn't want to probe the fragile foundations of the human condition. He just wants to blow stuff up and kill characters in the most inventive ways possible. Guys like George R.R. Martin and Joss Whedon are lightweights compared to Rodriguez when it comes to killing main characters. The key difference being that those writers make the deaths hurt, while Rodriguez just makes them goofy and awesome.

 

He's a B movie auteur

Robert Rodriguez takes a hands-on approach to nearly every element of filmmaking. He writes, he directs, he produces, he edits, he mixes sound, he shoots, he cooks and he plays guitar. He does everything, much of it from his own garage. While his films never feel all that massive, they don't often feel all that minuscule, either. Rodriguez figured out a way to take complete control over the filmmaking process while also maintaining a high level of financial success, a claim few other filmmakers can make.

 

He puts together amazing casts

You could do this with almost any Robert Rodriguez film, but take a look at the cast for Machete Kills. Obviously Danny Trejo is back along with Machete costars Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. But then you have Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Charlie Sheen, Antonio Banderas, William Sadler and even Lady Gaga. That's amazing. For whatever reason, be it short time commitments or just the fact that he'll serenade you with a guitar while on set, great actors flock to Rodriguez films. He continuously gets some of the best, most surprising casts out there.

 

He makes the best DVD special features ever

Rodriguez has a unique filmmaking process, which he is both open and eager to discuss, leading  to some of the best, most educational DVD special features on the market. His "10 Minute Film School" series is incredible, though slightly eclipsed by his unexpectedly legitimate and helpful "10 Minute Cooking School" segments. With his help, you will never again play slave to the studio system OR eat store-bought tortillas.

 

He is funny

Not enough people give Robert Rodriguez credit for his humor, especially when it's one of his strongest storytelling muscles. Even as far back as the original El Mariachi, Rodriguez's distinct comic style was already quite developed. His contribution to the anthology film Four Rooms, which inspired his Spy Kids franchise, is a loony tunes masterpiece. And if nothing else, he definitely knows how to get the most out of a Cheech Marin appearance.

 

He made The Faculty

In retrospect, The Faculty might be the most straight-faced entry in Robert Rodriguez's entire filmography. Even El Mariachi is easier to identify as one of his films. And yet, for all its nonsignature normalcy, The Faculty delivers a truly fun and inventive mixture of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Breakfast Club. Plus, it has to be the only movie where kids kill the hell out of Jon Stewart. That must be worth something.

 

He made Sin City

Sin City doesn't look much like a Robert Rodriguez movie, but that's because it adheres so slavishly to Frank Miller's original comics. Nevertheless, it still contains the stellar cast, dark humor and massive doses of gratuitous violence we've come to expect from the director. Hopefully the upcoming second installment is as fun and surprisingly meaty as the first.

 

He makes films for the Latino community

Like it or not, Robert Rodriguez stands as the preeminent Latino filmmaker of our times. Nearly every film he makes, especially lately, features primarily Latino casts including everyone from Sofia Vergara to Ricardo Montalban. And with the first Machete film, he even creates a Latino folk hero while also commenting on important immigration issues, albeit in an statement that involves one guy swinging out a window on another guy's guts. But that's why we love him.

 

He works cheap

Rodriguez first gained prominence with El Mariachi, not just for being an awesome film (which it is) but because it's an awesome film that cost less than $8,000 to make. And he didn't abandon his uncanny money saving skills once he had a foot in the Hollywood door, either. To this day, he's still getting way more out of his budgets than most other filmmakers on his level. Sometimes it doesn't quite come together and you can see the cheapness on-screen (Once Upon a Time in Mexico offers a particularly ugly and poorly constructed example). But when firing on all cylinders, Rodriguez has an amazing ability to turn thousands into what looks like millions.

 

What do you think--did we make our case? Do you love or hate Robert Rodriguez' films? Comment below and impart your wisdom.

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