Robert Rodriguez (SIN CITY) serves up another helping of over the top action in MACHETE KILLS. This time around Machete is recruited by the President of the United States to stop a Mexican rebel leader from launching a warhead at Washington DC. However, things are never as simple as they seem in these kinds of movies, and soon Machete is taking on a conniving weapons manufacture with dreams of escaping to space while simultaneously destroying the earth. Of course this all sounds ridiculous and far fetched, but that’s exactly the kind of plot one would expect from a Machete movie.
The Machete films are a kind of tribute to low budget B movies, and as such, MACHETE KILLS is quite well done. Some of the wonderful archetypes we get to see are the over the top villain hideout, the super strong henchman, crazy imaginary weapons, various vehicle chase scenes, a femme fatale, a family out for revenge, hit men, and a masked villain. One of the more notable gimmicks is the assassin who can change his face and is aptly called The Chameleon. This creepy ability is never explained, but every so often he removes his face and somehow changes bodies as well, and while its funny and odd, it does give us the opportunity to see many actors play the same character, giving the film some of its more memorable celebrity appearances. A big tradition in B movies is paying homage (or sometimes down right ripping off) other franchises; MACHETE KILLS gives homage to star wars, star trek, bond films, samurai films, and spaghetti westerns. While the film is soaked in crazy, larger than life sequences and references, the directing that creates and captures it all is top notch.
If there is one thing Robert Rodriguez excels at, its directing action, so with him at the helm you know you are in for a fun ride, even if it is intentionally hokey at times. It takes a master musician to be able to play badly and satirically, and the same is true for directing, and it is proven in MACHETE KILLS. Most of the fight sequences and just about all of the vehicular action sequences not only defy the laws of physics, they down right laugh at them. However, whether its people swinging from a moving helicopter propeller or flying on a rocket, Rodriguez frames and captures the action in ways that are both entertaining and humorous. There are some down to earth scenes, and are handled with due care and talent, but its really the utterly unbelievable moments that make the movie fun. What makes the directing impressive is familiarity of Rodriguez’s other works, such as the EL MARIACHI TRILOGY or SIN CITY, because it takes a great deal of talent to tone down your craft to a sloppy level, but still create a film that looks good and flows well.
Despite having all the right elements, MACHETE KILLS falls short of the charm of the first one. In the first film, the humor came from things being so ridiculously unbelievable or over the top that it was impossible not to laugh; this time around, many situations are played for laughs and are intentionally made to be funny. This change of approach left me cold, and I found my interest waning periodically throughout the film when things went to a more comedic approach. Thankfully, the sporadic celebrity appearances in film helped keep it interesting, even when it felt lackluster.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to a movie like MACHETE KILLS to see great acting; I go to see a bunch of actors and celebrities I like being ridiculous, and if you’re like me, this movie delivers. Danny Trejo (TV’s SONS OF ANARCHY) once again steps into the role of Machete, and he does a great job. His quiet demeanor and vicious glares highlight the badass killing machine he plays so well, and he delivers it with such intensity that its always fun to watch. Mel Gibson (SIGNS) plays Voz, an arms manufacturer with an eye on world domination. It doesn’t feel like Mel puts a great deal of effort into the role, but then again, he doesn’t have to, its amusing just to see him play a hokey villain. Demian Bichir (TV’s THE BRIDGE) plays a Mendez, a Mexican freedom fighter with a split personality. Its fun to watch him go from nice guy freedom fighter to absolute lunatic and its one of the more memorable performances in the film. Amber Heard (PARANOIA) steps into the role of Miss San Antonio, Machete’s undercover government contact. Its clearly a fun role and Heard certainly seems to have a blast playing it. Michelle Rodriguez (FAST AND FURIOUS 6) returns as Luz and, as always, she’s fantastic as a badass. Sofia Vergara (TV’s MODERN FAMILY) joins the cast as Desdemona, a brothel owner who’s out for revenge. Although Vergara she doesn’t have a ton of screen time, when she does show up you’re in for some serious fun. Charlie Sheen (Credited as Carlos Estevez (TV’s ANGER MANAGEMENT)) plays President Rathcock and is one of the highlights of the film, stealing every scene he’s in and clearly playing on his personal legend. Walton Goggins (DJANGO UNCHAINED), Cuba Gooding Jr. (THE BUTLER), Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas (HAYWIRE) all play the role of The Chameleon, the shape shifting hit man. All four are fantastic and really elevate the films level of fun. While those are all the more major players, I do want to mention some minor ones whose appearances were less prominent but just as entertaining: Vanessa Hudgens (SPRING BREAKERS), Tom Savini (DJANGO UNCHAINED), Alexa Vega (THE DEVIL’S CARNIVAL), William Sadler (IRON MAN 3), and Jessica Alba (LITTLE FOCKERS).
While MACHETE KILLS can’t quite capture the magic of the original, it still has plenty going for it. The cast is absolutely amazing and seeing so many prominent actors in one movie is a blast. The action, while almost always unbelievable, is a great deal of fun, and the directing is rather impressive. If you are looking for mindless action, cheap thrills, hokey references, and some good laughs, then head out to the theatres and give this movie a gander.
Final Score: 6.5 out of 10