Machete ended with the narrator vowing that the lead character will return. The sequel, Machete Kills opens up with a fantastic trailer for Machete Kills Again... In Space! Since this series is spun off from the Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse, which was full of fake trailers, it’s very appropriate. Grindhouse is a fantastic piece of overstuffed entertainment and two movies spun off from its trailers, Machete and Hobo With A Shotgun, were really awesome rides. Machete Kills Again... In Space! looks pretty nifty too, featuring lightsaber fighting and cyborgs and zero gravity machete wielding.
But where does that leave Machete Kills? Well, it’s okay, if you’re fine with deliberately corny overacting and some ingeniously inventive splatter. But Kills is missing the social commentary of Machete that caused it to be better than expected. Under the surface, Machete kind of made a bloody cathartic statement about illegal immigration amidst the exploitation madness. The script for Kills is not as smart, and sometimes it seems to be going through the motions of providing a grindhouse movie parody. However, Kills does get gleefully, delightfully weirder as it goes on abandoning its exploitation genre roots to become almost a sci–fi / Bond movie. Specifically Moonraker. How it gets to that point makes the flick worthwhile.
Stone cold killer of bad men, ex–Federal agent, and illegal Mexican immigrant, Machete (Danny Trejo), is personally recruited by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen) to track down and kill a madman named Mendez (Demian Bichir) who is threatening to a nuclear strike against Washington. Helping Machete is an undercover sexy pageant prom queen (Amber Heard) who points him towards Mendez’s home base in Mexico. It turns out the nuke is linked to Mendez’s heart and if it stops beating the bomb will launch. So Machete has to drag the madman back across to the U.S. but everyone is out to kill them, including a sadistic prostitute madam (Sofía Vergara from “Modern Family”), an assassin who changes appearance named Cameleón (Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas), and a space obsessed insane mastermind, Voz (Mel Gibson), who has a horrible scheme to reign terror upon the planet.
Aside from a nasty glare, Trejo is not the most emotive actor (but, to be fair, the character isn’t supposed to be) so he’s surrounded by people who do the overacting for him. Pretty much everyone is in the sprawling cast is fun. Every actor who plays Chameleón, Gaga and Gooding Jr. especially, have a kill–crazy manic energy. Chameleón’s swap between bodies is one of the more reality–bending sci–fi aspects of Kills that give it pep since the exploitation vibe can get a bit tired after awhile. A very amusing visual is seeing Sheen be the president (he’s credited under his real name, Carlos Estevez), and him using his Sheen schtick and dropping f–bombs makes it funnier. Heard, Vergara and returning series vet Michelle Rodriguez get to do the sexy and deadly thing. Pretty much every line Vergara delivers with high–level craziness, doubled by the fact that she has machine gun jublies straight out of Austin Powers. It’s a bit of a bummer that Michelle Rodriguez got more to do in the first film but that’s expected in a sequel.
Villainy duties are mostly split between Gibson and Bichir. Oscar nominated for his heartbreaking role in A Better Life, Bichir goes in a completely opposite direction as Mendez suffers from extreme personality disorder, shifting from nice guy to insane killer in seconds as Bichir milks it for all it’s worth. The best thing about Gibson’s performance is he’s even unhinged by Mel Gibson standards, which is saying something. By the end he’s pushed into the cartoonish supervillainy stratosphere, quite literally, which kicks the movie into another level.
It’s needed to because Machete Kills has a few shoot–em–up gags that the first film did but with less energy. There are some neat beats here, Machete using a guy’s intestines to pull him into a helicopter blade is rather inspired. One car chase that cuts to the interior of a bad guy’s car while an instructional audio about how to speak Spanish blares is a nice beat that shows director Rodriguez can provide cool twists in action scenes. Happily, Kills starts to shift genres with the bad guy’s arsenal of super–weapons and master plan to shoot a rocket ship into space. It’s hard to say if the ending is inspired, desperate, or extremely stupid. Maybe a bit of all three.
Machete Kills is uneven, some parts hit, some parts don’t, and some parts feel like it’s trying too hard. Even Rodriguez is guilty of plagiarizing himself by basically repackaging his blind gunman bit from Once Upon A Time in Mexico. And the movie feels about 15 minutes too long. But when it sings, when the actors get to chew scenery, it’s a pretty enjoyable movie, assuming you dig carnage. Hopefully it does actually lead to the third movie because Machete Kills Again... In Space! is too insane to pass up. V
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo,
Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson