With their homage to 1960’s and 70’s Mexploitation movies, grind house cinema and ultra-violent 1980’s video nasties, Robert Rodriguez Machete films should be outrageous thrill rides and rollicking pop-cultural parodies that push the boundaries of popular taste. Unfortunately, Machete and now its sequel Machete Kills wind up as predictable, juvenile, occasionally grotesque but emotionally inert throwaway action films. Like Machete, the sequel is full of ridiculous, over-the-top characters, ludicrous dialogue and multiple decapitations, dismemberings and disembowelments but while the first film was at least occasionally dark, confronting and gleefully obscene, Machete Kills is surprisingly flat.
The blame for the failure of Machete Kills can’t be placed on star Danny Trejo, though, as he gives the indestructible title character a brooding Charles Bronson-like presence that makes him likeable and charismatic even when he’s lopping someone’s head off. He leads a cast that includes Charlie Sheen (credited as Carlos Estevez) as the US president, Mel Gibson as a Bond villain-like corporate meanie and a host of stars including Cuba Gooding Jr, Walter Goggins, Antonio Banderas and Lady Gaga. Also, aware that the audience for these films is hormonal adolescent males, Rodriguez includes a procession of stunning women such as Sophia Vegara as a murderous brothel madam, Jessica Alba as Machete’s fellow agent and love interest, Amber Heard as a sinister beauty queen and Michelle Rodriguez as the gun-toting leader of the spy agency for whom Machete works.
This oddball cast collide in what amounts to a third-rate Bond parody with President Charlie Sheen personally dispatching Machete to Mexico to investigate a drug lord who apparently wants to launch a nuclear missile at the US. Along the way Machete encounters nefarious double agents, women with machine gun bras, genetically-modified super soldiers and villains dressed as Mexican wrestlers. Defying every law of physics and human endurance, Machete somehow avoids being killed while at the same time concocting increasingly ridiculous methods of disposing of his foes.
All this should have produced a bizarre and hilarious action comedy but the film lacks wit, has no momentum and the action scenes are as passionless and monotonous as a computer game. Worse still, this bland looking film has no atmosphere and its overuse of cgi kills the grindhouse retro feel. Interestingly, book-ending the film are 70’s-style mock trailers for what may be the next Machete film, Machete Kills Again: In Space and these trailers are much more fun than the actual film.
After his much publicised antics, Charlie Sheen is oddly subdued here as he attempts to play the role of President (almost) straight. Mel Gibson is a little more animated and delivers one of the better performances in this film although a bit-part in a Machete movie would seem an odd choice for his (latest) comeback attempt. The large supporting cast of women have some fun with their roles (particularly Sofia Vergara) but as with Gibson, this film is unlikely to take pride of place on their CV.
Some films are so bad they’re good but Machete Kills tries so hard to be bad it’s boring. When it hits dvd, however, some viewers full of beer, pizza and other substances may get a kick out of a few of Machete Kills’ mildly obscene set pieces.
Nick’s rating: Two stars.
Director(s): Robert Rodriguez.
Release date: 24th Oct 2013
Running time: 107 mins.
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