A film review by Craig J. Koban October 17, 2013


2013, R, 107  mins.


Danny Trejo as Machete  /  Jessica Alba as Sartana  /  Mel Gibson as Luther Voz  /  Michelle Rodriguez as Luz  /  Tom Savini as Osiris  /  Sofía Vergara as Desdemona  /  Lady Gaga as La Chameleón  /  Vanessa Hudgens as Cereza  /  Alexa Vega as KillJoy  /  Cuba Gooding Jr. as El Camaleon  /  Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio  /  Demián Bichir as Mendez  /  Charlie Sheen as Mr. President

Directed by Robert Rodriguez  /  Written by Kyle Ward

I thought that the first MACHETE film was a real first: a movie based on a fake movie trailer.  Well, along comes its sequel, the affectionately and hilariously blunt sounding MACHETE KILLS, to offer up yet another first.  It opens not to an actual scene from the film, but rather to a fake trailer for the – wait for it – third film in the series called MACHETE KILLS AGAIN…IN SPACE.  In it we see Danny Trejo’s unendingly morose looking anti-hero – in astronaut gear - slash his way through multiple adversaries with a laser weapon that could just very easily get the attention of Lucasfilm’s legal department.  

Oh yeah, it’s also set in space. 

This is not only a gloriously insane manner to start a film, but it also just highlights what gloriously insane good fun MACHETE KILLS is, which revels and thrusts itself through one moment of head-spinning absurdity and pure lunacy after another without ever, ever looking back.  It contains the same level of giddy, tongue-in-cheek hero-worship for the trashy and low-grade drive-in grindhouse films of yesteryear, but Robert Rodriguez’ sequel this time takes the madness to whole other levels of infectious enjoyment.  Just when you think that this film could not become anymore…well…strange and silly…along comes another scene of riotous ridiculousness to appease your cravings for more.  MACHETE KILLS just might be one of the craziest studio pictures I’ve seen in a long time. And don’t forget…I’ve seen CRANK 2: HIGH VOLTAGE

The plot of the film is on pure – and intentional – cornball mode.  Ex-federale Machete (Trejo, who’s kind of funny for how he never tries to plays scenes for a laugh) has been recruited by the U.S. President, played by – ahem – Carlos Estevez (a.k.a. Charlie Sheen, but the credits list him by his birth name, in one of the film’s many wink-wink movie trivia shout-outs) to stop the vile and despotic arms dealer Voz (Mel Gibson...yes, that one) and drug kingpin Mendez (Demian Bichir) before they can launch a missile at Washington.  Of course, Machete “don’t take orders well,” but the President convinces him with the prospect of wiping his criminal record clean.  Machete then journeys to hook up with his handler (Amber Heard), who just happens to be undercover as Miss San Antonio in a beauty pageant..   



Machete does manage to find and confront Mendez in his home country, but he discovers that drug czar's heart is attached to a remote trigger that will launch the nuke if he is killed…or if his heart stops for some reason.  Complicating matters is the fact that Mendez appears to have multiple-personality disorder and migrates between ape-shit insanity and soft-spoken humbleness with the drop of a hat.  While trying to secure Mendez – and keep him alive – Machete hooks up with some of his old friends, like the tough as nails Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) as he faces off against new enemies, like Desdemona (a wild-eyed Sofia Vergara), a brothel owner with a score to settle with Machete (she sports a metal bra that contains machine guns and a host of other weapons).  When Machete finally confronts Voz he discovers that he plans to nuke the world back to the Stone Age and retreat to his space station.  Voz proves to be hard to kill, seeing as he can see into the immediate future. 

Like I said, MACHETE KILLS is nuttier than a proverbial fruit cake, but it’s the kind of film that embraces its bad taste, schlockiness, and highly self-aware genre referencing to the point of perverse admiration.  Like what all good sequels should do, the film certainly ups the ante in terms of its predecessor, showcasing the perpetually scowling and grim Trejo slashing and killing his prey in the most gleefully outrageous manners possible (just when you think all methods of using helicopter blades to kill people have been explored, along comes this film to convince you otherwise).  Some may, no doubt, find the film’s wanton parade of sheer ultraviolence to be numbing, but Rodriguez handles it with such an over-the-top and cartoonish intensity that you’d be hard-pressed to perceive it as based on any earth-bound reality.  Even better is that Rodriguez’s passion and enthusiasm really shines through here.  He not only understands the appeal for all of the more tawdry conventions of exploitation cinema, but he also knows how to both pay respect to them while mocking them in this film.  That’s kind of a tough and tricky feat to pull off. 

The performances here are also thankless for migrating between that dicey grey area of overindulgently hamming it up and playing it all too stern and seriously.  Granted, the exception might be Trejo, who’s actually kind of delightfully engaging the more angry and determined he looks; he plays things relatively straight.  Demian Bichir (who gave a fine Oscar nominated performance in A BETTER LIFE) is kind of the exact opposite, who plays his split-personality-plagued drug cartel leader with an unpredictable, screw-loose madness and a real amusing gusto.  Then there’s Gibson, a man that seems to have been the punch line to many late night comedian’s jokes with his less-than-stellar personal life choices as of late, but here he demonstrates what a good sport he is for playing a villainous role that’s deliriously demented…and does so for chuckles.   Not only is Voz clairvoyant, but he also has a penchant for cloning, wearing capes, and driving around in a vehicle that looks like Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder from the first STAR WARS.   You gotta give Gibson props; he’s in on the joke all the way through the film.

If there were one overt criticism/question that dogs MACHETE KILLS it would be this: Did the world really need another MACHETE film?  Didn’t Rodriquez say everything he needed to about his passion for the B-grade grindhouse fare that he so obviously admires with the first film?  Well, I guess that I would answer with both a "yes" and a "no."  There’s no tangible reason I can think of for MACHETE KILLS to exist, and there are moments in it when it feels like it’s telling the first film’s series of gags all over again.  Yet, I came out of this sequel appreciating its unbridled willingness to one-up its predecessor’s already high loony-bin level of lurid madness.  

That…and let’s not forget about MACHETE KILLS AGAIN…IN SPACE.  

Um...yeah...count me in. 

  H O M E