Movie Review | ‘Machete Kills’ exhausts viewer amusement
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 07:10
Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills” begins with a mock preview of an even more ridiculous sequel, “Machete Kills Again ... In Space.” That should tell you everything you need to know about this film.
“Machete Kills,” starring Danny Trejo as Machete, is the second and latest installment in Rodriguez’s over-the-top “Mex-ploitation” series. Like its predecessor, “Machete,” (2010) Rodriguez delivers a B-film with A-quality action — all in the service of parodying the action movie genre.
The movie tells the story of Machete, a former Mexican federal agent gone rogue. After his partner is shot and killed by a mysterious man in a Mexican wrestling mask during a shootout, Machete is ordered by United States President Rathcock (played by Charlie Sheen, here credited under his birth name, Carlos Estévez) to assassinate Mexican revolutionary Marcos Mendez (Demáin Bichir), who is preparing to launch a nuclear missile at Washington, D.C.
“Machete Kills” does not even attempt to show any substance as a film. Rodriguez is an auteur of tacky, grindhouse cinematography, and the sole pleasure of the film is watching him seamlessly handle retro, action film conventions. The movie touches on all the typical action movie tropes — people jump out of helicopters, cars and speedboats; the United States and by extension, the world, is threatened with annihilation and the protagonist emerges unscathed from wave after wave of machinegun fire. Needless to say, one-liners abound.
However, this is exactly what the movie is going for — it is actually trying to parody these action clichés and in this respect, it is relatively successful. “Machete Kills” treats the action genre the same way the “Austin Powers” film trilogy (1997-2002) treats the spy movie genre — exaggerating every detail with juvenile glee. Everything is reduced to a series of breakneck plot developments. The movie is well aware of just how superficial it is, and it wields this self-awareness deftly. Flying gore and cheesy, tough-as-nails dialogue are the sorts of things that “Machete Kills” does best. Rodriguez plays up these conventions shamelessly, exaggerating them until they become perfectly, uproariously tactless. But the movie has far too little going on for this to happen time and time again and still be effective. Although “Machete” tries to make this ironic, action movie bravado sustainable throughout the entire film, after a while it ultimately ceases to be entertaining.
Demáin Bichir gives the most notable performance as the Mexican revolutionary, Mendez, amidst a cavalcade of overwrought acting. Bichir demonstrates some actual versatility as he oscillates among at least three schizophrenic personalities, all the while dishing out manic humor. The only character who can contest Mendez in terms of on-screen hilarity is El Camaleón, the wise-cracking, face-changing bounty hunter played by no less than four different actors: Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas (in that order). If this line-up isn’t preposterous enough, the on-screen transformations should be.
Danny Trejo, on the other hand, is every bit as stoic as a cardboard cutout, rattling off one-liners with almost no inflection: “Machete don’t tweet,” “Machete don’t smoke.” Well, apparently Machete don’t act, either.
At 107 minutes, “Machete Kills” is absurdly long, especially for a film that is nothing but a series of violent gags. As hinted at by the opening trailer, there are potential plans for a third Machete installment, and the film certainly leaves itself open to another sequel. Whether this is actually necessary — or if it will actually happen — is uncertain. In any case, “Machete Kills” is so beautifully terrible at times that it might just have a place in the hall of iconic cult films, because otherwise, it doesn’t have a place anywhere.