MACHETE KILLSDirector: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Carlos Estevez/Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Demián Bichir, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding, Jr., William Sadler, Marko Zaror, Mel Gibson
Genre: Action, Thriller
Run Time: 132 mins
Opens: 17 October 2013
Rating: M18 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Machete (Trejo) and his love interest/partner from the first film, Agent Sartana Rivera (Alba) take on a gang of corrupt U.S. soldiers selling weapons to a drug cartel. The mission goes wrong and Machete is framed for a crime he’d never imagine committing. His chance at redemption? Accepting a mission to take down crazed revolutionary Marcos Mendez (Bichir), on executive command of President Rathcock (Sheen). Machete runs into a colourful rogues gallery, including master of disguise El Cameleón (Goggins, Gaga, Gooding Jr. and Banderas), trigger-happy madame Desdemona (Vergara) and her girls, and Mendez’s towering henchman Zaror (Marko Zaror). Naturally, there’s a mastermind Machete will have to contend with – megalomaniac weapons and aerospace magnate Luther Voz (Gibson). It’s a good thing our knife-wielding hero has allies like Luz (Rodriguez) to count on.
You probably know right off the bat if this movie is for you or if it isn’t. It’s exactly what it says on the tin: an egregiously violent, goofy, gleefully tasteless action exploitation flick, heavy on the CGI blood splatter and low on that pesky sense-making. Nobody can accuse multi-hyphenate director Robert Rodríguez and gang of false advertising. Early in his career, Rodríguez envisioned perennial tough guy (and second cousin of his) Danny Trejo as the Mexican equivalent of an action hero like Charles Bronson or Jean-Claude Van Damme, though apparently he had to pay his dues in Rodriguez’s Spy Kids films first before finally headlining the 2010 flick.
“Sequel escalation” is something moviegoers have come to expect: a follow-up that tries to be bigger, better and more over the top than the first. For better or for worse, Machete Kills is consistent in carrying over the style of the first movie but does try to stretch the scope. For example, while the baddies in the first film were a corrupt senator, his aide and a notorious drug kingpin, the villains here are pretty much old-school Bond bad guys: a supervillain bent on establishing his new world order, a warlord with a split personality, an uber-femme fatale armed with a Gatling gun bustier and a villain remarkably similar to Spider-Man foe Chameleon, right down to the name. It might as well be this way, the levels of incredulity turned up to eleven, since nobody was interested in making a “realistic” film in the first place. If anything’s really out of place, it’s a scene in which Madame Desdemona talks about suffering sexual abuse at the hands of her father. This is particularly squirm-inducing amidst the wanton silliness of the rest of the film.
A top-drawer cast partaking in this veritable orgy of base, pulpy genre hijinks is arguably the biggest reason to check this out. To call this ensemble “eclectic” would be an understatement. Leading the charge is Trejo, who is one of those actors whose aura of badass transcends screen roles and into real life; he probably is pretty much playing himself. The beauty of Trejo’s performance is that he plays it straight as an arrow. Considering how everyone else is given carte blanche to cartwheel all over the place, Trejo’s method is more effective than if he played Machete yelling every line and spouting endless one-liners. Most of his one-liners in the film are some variation on “Machete don’t ____”, taking off the unexpected popularity of the “Machete don’t text” line from the first one.
It might be easy to think that the Academy Award winners and nominees in Machete Kills are doing nothing short of slumming it but gosh darn if they don’t look like they’re having a grand old time. Demián Bichir’s Mendez – noble freedom fighter one minute and genocidal lunatic the next – is fun, but the show does belong to Mel Gibson. It seems he has decided that taking on villainous parts in movies like this and the upcoming The Expendables 3 are a way of paying penance for past indiscretions; Mad Mel putting those crazy eyes to excellent use as a cross between Richard Branson and Moonraker villain Hugo Drax. One of the character’s entertaining eccentricities is a fondness for Star Wars; we’re willing to bet you won’t see Mel Gibson and Danny Trejo sitting in a landspeeder in any other movie.
For everyone who thought Jamie Foxx wasn’t sufficiently believable as leader of the free world in White House Down, take a gander at Charlie Sheen (gamely choosing to be credited by his birth name, Carlos Estévez) as the Prez. There’s the added bonus that his dad Martin Sheen memorably portrayed a U.S. President in The West Wing – insert “George H.W. and George W. Bush” joke here. Where Sheen is, a bevy of beauties is never too far away – Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara and Alexa Vega all contributing to the shameless eye candy quotient. Slightly creepy if you realize Rodríguez directed a pre-pubescent Vega in the Spy Kids flicks, and here she is in assless chaps. We are obligated to point out that in spite of adhering to the grindhouse ethos in all other areas, this film lacks the gratuitous nudity of its predecessor. Lady Gaga’s involvement is a piece of stunt casting that doesn’t misfire; she probably is even more outrageous in everyday life than her character in this is anyway.
Machete Kills is so lowbrow that the brows might be mistaken for a moustache. There are those who will view this as worthless trash and others who will go along with the elaborate joke, choose to humour Rodríguez and company and try to have a good time. We can’t say either reaction is totally unwarranted. Oh, and the fake trailer for Machete Kills Again – In Space, with Michelle Rodriguez yelling “eat photons, bitches!” is genuinely funny.
SUMMARY: A second helping of a cheesy, greasy glop of a quesadilla – hold the salad. With Machete Kills, everything depends on if you’re willing to risk indigestion for a guilty pleasure.
RATING: 3 out of 5 STARS