Machete Kills

Machete don’t tweet.

2010’s Machete was the little massacre that could. A film based on a fake trailer included with 2007’s feature Grindhouse, Machete was a loving parody of exploitative B-movies of the 1960s and 70s, filled to the brim with sex and violence and steeped in irony. Three years ago, I saw the film with my mom and I knew there was something unique occurring on screen. Never before had I seen something so repulsive, delightfully over-the-top, and in such bad taste. As Machete, played by the ever-seething Danny Trejo, rappelled down a building with another man’s own intestines, I was surprised that everyone in the theatre was laughing. Everyone was in on the joke and they understood what the film was meant to convey. I went into Machete Kills expecting the same gleeful eviscerations with moderate expectations of the sequel. This time around, however, it felt like the joke was on us.

Director Robert Rodriguez, auteur of the masterpiece The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, once again attempts to stumble into greatness, recycling many of the same jokes and one-liners that miss their mark on their second outing. Rodriguez often collaborates with Quentin Tarantino, and there is a comparison to be made of their genres and style. After watching this film, it is clear that while Rodriguez can create some of the same violence we came to love in Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained, he is woefully unequipped at screenwriting and dialogue. And, after all, isn’t that what makes a Tarantino film so glorious?

 What I found most disappointing was how lazy and tired the film seemed to be, relying on the same premise but lacking the inspired character of the first. The ex-Federale Machete is once again pulled into action against his will, leaving a trail of guts, bullets, and betrayal in his wake. This time around, the President (Carlos Estevez, better known by his stage name Charlie Sheen) forces Machete to travel south of the border to stop a renegade revolutionary with multiple personality disorder from firing a nuclear weapon pointed at the capital. Along the way, a brothel owner with a machine gun brassiere, an assassin with an identity crisis, and vigilante border patrol agents pursue Machete. Overly long story short, Machete ends up in a Moonraker-esque space launch center, setting up a sequel, Machete Kills Again … In Space!, which I hope, in vain, never comes to fruition.

Criticisms aside, the cast is easily the most enjoyable part of the film, and I recommend you see the movie if only for the ensemble that assembled to make it. It’s not surprising that the original film’s biggest strength is also the best part of the sequel. I assumed that the original cast, featuring such names as Robert DeNiro, Cheech Marin, and Steven Seagal, would be a hard act to top, but Machete Kills brings even bigger names to the table, and they seem to have fun playing against type and convention.

The cast is led once again by the badass Danny Trejo, who is always fun, and a little scary, to watch. After a career of playing macho villains and henchmen, Trejo absolutely owns the resolute and angry Machete. While the character’s actions speak louder than his infrequent words, Trejo portrays life and emotion in a glare, reminiscent of Hector Salamanca from Breaking Bad.

Charlie Sheen’s President Rathcock (Seriously.) was very funny, and played up Sheen’s reputation as a “bad boy” while not going too over-the-top. I couldn’t help but feel that Sheen is still coasting on his “winning” days and I would like to see him move on to more dramatic roles like he had done in the past.

Sofia Vergara’s Madame Desdemona was, on the other hand, an unfunny, one-note character, relying on the actress’ physique and sex appeal for nearly every joke. The character was entirely unnecessary and detracted from an otherwise solid ensemble.

Cuba Gooding Jr., Walt Goggins, Antonio Banderas, and Lady Gaga steal their fairly miniscule scenes and were each very fun to watch in different ways. When they were done, I longed to see more of their portrayals. Anyone of the characters could’ve been bumped into a larger part and I would have loved it. To say any more would spoil some plot points, so I’ll leave it at that.

The standout performance of the film was Mel Gibson’s Luther Voz, a psychic Bond villain with a love of Star Wars and chockfull of subtle jabs at Scientology. It was refreshing to see Gibson return to a large film in such a way, especially after his, shall we say, transgressions in recent years. If you were a fan of Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder or Michael Cera in This Is The End, you will enjoy Gibson playing against type in this film.

With an overly complicated, uninventive plot and tiresome jokes, Machete Kills should have been an absolute train wreck. Enjoyably surprising performances by a stellar cast and the same sense of irony as the original manage to make the film a manageable view. As much as I know I will be disappointed, I already know I’ll be seeing the second sequel when it inevitably release in a few years’ time. That can only be a testament to some masochistic tendency, or Machete’s impossible likeability and unpredictability as a character.

2.5 Semi-automatic Sex Toys out of 5