Film Review – Machete Kills
The Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino pet project Grindhouse went mostly unsung, but even its detractors seemed to share a fondness for the faux trailers that hinged the two films. Fan outcry soon led to a full-fledged Machete feature, an over-the-top “Mexplotation” flick starring the always stoic Danny Trejo as a monosyllabic ex-Federale on a quest for revenge. It fared well enough to warrant a sequel, Machete Kills, and the results are…wait, Lady Gaga is in this?
This time out, Machete is recruited by the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen, billed by his Christian name of Carlos Estevez) to thwart a madman’s plan to launch a missile at Washington D.C. The madman in question is played by The Bridge‘s Demián Bichir, refreshingly free to let loose as an assassin with multiple personalities. The detonator is rigged to his heart and will activate the missile if he is killed. There’s also a $10 million bounty put on Machete’s head to add to the fun, leading to a hyper-violent retread of Midnight Run. An elusive hunter known as El Cameleón has shape-shifting abilities for reasons never disclosed (radioactive chameleon bite?) and is hot on their trail. Sound fun?! Yeah, ya’d think so…
Listen, it’s pretty clear everyone on set is having a blast, and that can be infectious. Rodriguez has recruited a who’s-who of celebrities for bit parts throughout, and none hang around long enough to outstay their welcome. Among the standouts are Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio, a beauty queen with a secret or two, Sofia Vergara as a scorned mother with a deadly bosom, and the aforementioned Lady Gaga, hamming it up as only she can. The most surprisingly welcome stunt casting comes in the form of Mel Gibson, though, as Luther Voz, a shady industrialist with a world domination plan so outlandish it’d make Goldfinger blush. Gibson relishes the role and reminds us all how insanely watchable he can be.
Because Machete isn’t just a clever name, there will be blood. Lots and lots of blood. The kills this time out are even more tongue-in-cheek than in the first installment, and the first few especially are inspired in their inventiveness. I’m fairly squeamish myself, but the CGI bloodletting is so cartoonish in its execution (pun wholly intended!) that you can’t help but shake your head and laugh. Practical effects are impractical in this Hollywood age, and it unfortunately shows.
Trejo was born for this part, but I’m beginning to think that may not be a compliment. He lumbers his way through the picture with only the occasional line to remind us of his motivations. Fair enough, but why then bog down the proceedings with running gags that were stale their first time out? (“Machete don’t text.”)
Less politically overt than the original, Machete Kills is content to revel in splatter and cheap laughs and leave its soapbox at home. The President himself is a womanizing drug abuser and is only able to enlist the help of Machete through manipulative means. Nothing is off limits in this gruesome fairy tale, but the momentum is severely lacking, and it’s overlong by at least twenty minutes. We might all be in on the joke, but that doesn’t provide an excuse to prolong the punchline.
Machete Kills ends on a dour cliffhanger, but The Empire Strikes Back it isn’t. I’ve enjoyed my time here and all, but think it’s time to bid you adieu.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eig0bJJXmu8&w=560&h=315]