2013 - 107 minutes
Directed by:Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Kyle Ward
Starring: Danny Trejo, Demian Bichir, Mel Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Head, Sofia Vergara, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr, Antonio Banderas, Walter Goggins, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Marko Zaror
Never has so much choreographed mayhem inspired so much boredom. Director/editor/cinematographer/composer/producer Robert Rodriguez’s approach of throwing every “cool” idea that pops into his head into his films rockets past its saturation point with “Machete Kills.” Though screenwriter isn’t included in his extensive list of slashes for the film – he has a story credit for the screenplay penned by Kyle Ward – there’s no denying that the on-screen chaos is all Rodriguez’s concoction. There’s also no denying he is a passionate, multi-talented filmmaker; he just needs to pull back and add self-control to his long list of duties.
The character of badass Mexican Federale Machete (Danny Trejo) first appeared in a faux trailer before 2007’s “Grindhouse” and the concept was extended to a full-length exploitation feature in 2010’s “Machete.” A mashup of 70’s-era B-movie excess with outlandish characters circling a loose social commentary core, the Mexploitation flick managed to entertain and sustain its shabby premise with a gaudy spirit.
Beginning with the now-tired tactic of previewing a fake coming attraction (“Machete Kills Again….in Space!” – when you see it, you’ll certainly hope it’s fake), “Machete Kills” feels like a played out gimmick before the real movie even begins. If you can call “Machete Kills” a movie, that is. It’s more a collection of moving pictures, bold colors, blood and whims that tickle Rodriguez’s fancy. You can clearly sense a refrain playing over and over in his head – “wouldn’t it be cool if…”
As in, “wouldn’t it be cool if there was a bad guy with multiple personalities?” Wouldn’t it be even cooler if he had a nuclear missile launch tied to his heartbeat? Or a bad guy master of disguise that pulls off one face to reveal another? Or a billionaire bad guy with ESP that’s also a crazy “Star Wars” fan? Or a gang of diamond-studded-leather-wearing prostitutes that shoots machine guns – one of them out of her bra? Maybe one of those things by itself could be cool, but Rodriguez gives us all of them and much, much more. Together they’re a drag.
An inconsequential yet unnecessarily convoluted plot involves the US President (Charlie Sheen, billed here as Carlos Estevez) recruiting Machete to retrieve madman revolutionary Mendez (Demian Bichir) and stop him from firing a missile at Washington, DC. After laborious pit stops with the aforementioned crazy prostitutes, a beauty queen double agent, an enigmatic bounty hunter assassin, overzealous Arizona lawmen, a cloned henchman and more, Machete uncovers an even deeper scheme hatched by arms dealer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson), who has a lair that would be the envy of Dr. Evil. Gibson’s charisma provides a welcome jolt of energy to the lumbering proceedings, but by the end you just kind of feel bad for him.
Much of the absurdity in the back half of “Machete Kills” is a shapeless, uninspired mass of Austin Powers blended with Roger Moore-era Bond films, with some ultra-violence thrown in. The first time you see someone pulled into the blades of the helicopter it works as a ludicrous bit of fun, the second time feels repetitive and the third time, which involves several men being chopped up at once, is just numbing. As is the purposely stilted screenplay that includes a Charlie Sheen “winning” joke years after it became a twitter meme, and a speech from Desdemona (Sophia Vergara), leader of the prostitutes, where she shares how she chewed off her father’s testicles.
Getting bashed in the head with over-the-top foolishness stops being fun very quickly, certainly long before this film limps to the end of its nearly two hours. A talented cast that mirrors the film by becoming way too bloated isn’t allowed to operate effectively and most are just going through the motions, with only Gibson and Bichir appearing to have any fun with the material. Their characters have their moments, but they are fleeting and few and far between.
The only thing “Machete Kills” kills are the prospects of this film franchise continuing. At least we won’t be subjected to a full-length “Machete Kills Again…in Space.”
© 2013 by Blake Crane