Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Machete Kills

Directed by Robert Rodriguez.
2013. Rated R, 107 minutes.
Danny Trejo
Demian Bichir
Mel Gibson
Sofia Vergara
Amber Heard
Charlie Sheen/Carlos Estevez
Michelle Rodriguez
William Sadler
Walton Goggins
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Antonio Banderas
Lady Gaga
Vanessa Hudgens
Jessica Alba

Machete (Trejo), our favorite ex-Federale, is back. As sequels must, things start off on a sour note for our hero as his partner/girlfriend Sartana (Alba) is killed during a bust gone bad. He himself is about to be taken out by corrupt Texas law man Sheriff Doakes (Sadler) (are there any other kind in a Machete movie?), when the phone rings and none other than the Commander-in-Chief himself, Pres. Rathcock (Sheen/Estevez), demands that he be flown to White House immediately. Once there, the president asks Machete to go to Mexico and assassinate Mendez (Birchir), an ex-cartel member who has acquired a nuclear bomb he is threatening to use on the U.S. Machete's pay for this job? His criminal record will be expunged and he will immediately be granted full citizenship in this country. Mayhem ensues.

The citizenship angle is important, or at least it would be, if this were the first movie. That one immersed itself in nearly all of the issues associated with the immigration debate. This one starts down that same road, but it rather quickly detours, concerning itself with being as zany as possible. Unfortunately, what's left has no gravity and our tale goes spinning off into the atmosphere. Literally. As in we wind up in space. Don't worry, that's no spoiler. We are told right at the beginning that the next installment in the franchise will be Machete Kills Space. Without the weightiness of an issue to hold it together, the movie never connects with us on any level. Its predecessor consistently went hard at the issue it attacked. Even if you disagreed with its basic stance, there was something to grasp. Here, there is not.

Like the first movie, we get a never ending succession of jokes. The difference is that in its predecessor, with the immigration issue as its anchor, it shaped itself into a sharp, if ultra-violent and exploitive, political satire. Instead, this aimlessly throws as much against the wall as it can and hope some of it sticks. Some of it does. Director Rodriguez really stretches his imagination to come up with a plethora of outrageous occurrences. Some of them make us say 'wow,' while others make us laugh. The problem is that rather than being part of a cohesive whole and sustaining its humor, these jokes are all stand alones, fleeting moments of comically presented gore. The one strand of consistency is that no matter where we are in the movie, we'll soon get a reference to an older movie. Most often, and most overtly that reference is to Star Wars. This usually works. Other times, we get the director paying homage to his own past work which is a bit narcissistic, to say the least. This usually doesn't work.

It's not all bad, though. We do have some fun performances. Danny Trejo is once again spot on perfect as the titular Machete. It's a wonderful deadpan that would make Steven Wright proud. YouTube him, young'uns. William Sadler gets to go over the top as that crooked law man and does a nice job. It was nice to see him just cut completely loose. The same can be said for Mel Gibson in a bad guy role. As much as we say we hate him these days, he was pretty good in this flick. Weirdly, Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, and Lady Gaga all play the same person (La Cameleon). It doesn't quite fit anything that's going on and is odd more than it is good, but is interesting. For the top prize, there is a tie between Charlie Sheen and Sofia Vergara. Sheen, billed under his birth name of Carlos Estevez in a nod to the whole immigration thing, is wonderfully cast as the most fun president the United States has ever had. While not realistic in any way, he's still a blast to watch. Vergara chews scenery with reckless abandon, playing every scene to the hilt. It helps that she's often outfitted with some of the director's versions of biological weapons, including the pecker gun he used in From Dusk 'Til Dawn. She makes every bit of it work and is the most fun part of the film, along with Sheen.

Machete Kills is a movie I could see some people loving because of the outrageousness of the action, the fun performances, the ridiculous humor, and a few quotable lines ("Machete don't tweet"). For me, it didn't quite come together like it did the first time. Almost all of the focus has been removed in the name of making the sequel a "bigger" movie than its predecessor. It is. The third, if they actually complete it, promises to be even bigger. However, the director has already seemed to lose his way with this franchise. At his best, Rodriguez brings his limitless imagination for morbid, twisted humor and welds it to an intensely focused narrative purpose to create, as our New England friends might say, a wicked good time. This time, the latter part of the equation is missing. There is some fun to be had. However, if you enjoyed the first one, even if you couldn't pinpoint it, you might be struck with the unsettling feeling that something is off. In some instances, way off.


  1. This movie just looks insane over the top. My husband is desperate to watch it on Netflix, but I won't let him. He will have to watch this alone! I think he wants to see it solely for Sofia Vegara. Nope, not gonna happen!

    1. Ha! It is way over the top. I'm curious to know if you've seen the first one. I don't think it's a good movie but I just have to try and help out your hubby. This one has as much ridiculous violence but far less flesh. In fact, Ms. Vergara and everyone else keeps their clothes on. She probably wears more revealing outfits on Modern Family.

  2. I remember not even really liking the first one, so I should probably steer clear altogether. kind of had me at Sofia Vergara. Hmm. Quite the dilemma.

    1. You might get to see "as much" of her as you hope. See my previous comment. And yeah, if the first one didn't work for you I wouldn't count on this one doing the trick.