In the pantheon of Grindhouse revival films, if there ever were such a place, Machete Kills should go down as one of its stupidest but also one of the most fun times you can have in 2013. Now all you Trejo/Rodriguez fans can sheath your machetes, the term stupid is used with immense love and respect for Rodriguez and company…but this film is simply ludicrous. It goes without saying that a film like this makes no effort to be realistic. How can it when it’s a cornucopia of all sorts of genre-themed oddities, including but not limited to ray guns, clones, wacky explosions/violence, Mel Gibson as a Bond-esqe villain and Charlie Sheen as, wait for it, the President of the United States? I mean can you imagine such a world?…well, maybe the idea of a Sheen in the White House isn’t complete lunacy. Anyway as with any apple that falls from the tree of Troublemaker Studios Machete Kills is dense with Rodriguez’s gritty style, smart writing and excess for the sake of it which makes this sequel such a blast. But that’s only scratching the surface.
Picking up where the first movie left off Robert Rodriguez continues to hold nothing back as he tells the continuing adventures of his machete brandishing titular character (played by Danny Trejo). The sequel to the laughably enjoyable chronicles of the Mexican one-man-army ups the ante in every way possible. Bigger explosions, bigger characters, bigger machetes and then it throws in the kitchen sink for good measure. The result is a glorious never-ending roman candle of insanity and frivolity. But don’t worry, this margarita of mayhem goes down easy. Sporting an impressive cast with cameos that rival the likes of the Muppet movies, Machete Kills is such a mixed bag that you’ll never really know who or what’s going to pop up. How weird is it to see the likes of Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Walton Goggins show up but also to find them playing the same character?? Don’t worry, it’ll make sense.
Then to see the likes of Demian Bichir, William Saddler and Tom Savini chew the scenery is just as smile inducing as watching Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror go head to head with Machete and his, well, machete. Every element Rodriguez throws into the mix, even the underused ones, exponentially ups the fun factor and that’s before Mel Gibson even shows up. Machete Kills winks at itself time and again as Rodriguez and writer Kyle Ward juggle all the seemingly cumbersome components with ease.
Kicking off this roller coaster is one of the smartest moves Rodriguez makes. As expected Machete Kills starts with a Grindhouse trailer. But, get ready to have your mind blown, it’s for Machete Kills Again…In Space! Has it gotten to the point RR is now parodying his characters? No and, without spoiling anything, this is pretty brilliant world-building. The trailer is for a forthcoming Machete flick but it actually foreshadows the events in Machete Kills and sets up an impossible looking third adventure for the ex-Federale. Even if it’s only in jest (like Spaceballs: The Sequel showing up in Spaceballs), it still shows the forward thinking on RR’s part and creates a nice bookend to the film while getting a lot of laughs. If you think it’s too crazy to ever happen you should recall that ludicrous fake Grindhouse trailer that preceded Planet Terror to see that nothing is impossible, especially when Rodriguez puts his mind to it.
There’s inventive lunacy running all over Machete Kills but much of it only plays out in very short spurts; geeze RR, even commercials last longer than some action sequences. Sadly the film is so packed to the gills that many players become throw away eye candy (e.g. Sofia Vergara and her deadly feminists, armored El Caminos and Jesse James as a Secret Service agent). Worse offense is probably the underused Marko Zaror. True he’s not a great actor (neither is JCVD but look at his career) but he still deserves more screen time and appreciation than he got. Yet he still manages to find himself right at home in another outlandish exploitation styled film. Minor gripess aside, Rodriguez has a winner on his hands because he makes the movies both he and his fans want to see.
Machete Kills is so off-the-wall it just revels in its own ridiculousness. It’s lame at times but still highly enjoyable even if it exists on a Saturday morning cartoon level of coherency. Watch Machete tear through scores of clones, drug cartel enforcers or generic henchmen (wearing luchador masks no less …God bless you Mr. Rodriguez!) and find it’s only some of the irreverent free-wheeling fun to be had. Machete Kills is crazy and it doesn’t care who knows it. After all, “Machete don’t text, Machete don’t tweet, Machete loves everybody.”
Rodriguez’s films have a familiarity and it’s in part because of his regular gaggle of odd ball actors. Double R brings nearly everyone back each time he shoots a film. A filmmaker who “works at the speed of thought” he’ll adapt any of stories just to allow his friends (including his doctor and his realtor) to be involved. Really anything can and in fact does go in a Rodriguez film and his crazy gang of actor friends love being part of the worlds he creates. Yes, in a nutshell Machete Kills is stupid but it’s also a lot of fun (replete with Rodriguez’s delicious Tex-Mex flair) and on par with the B-movie send-ups it is trying to emulate and parody. There’s really nothing wrong with it provided that’s the kind of fun you’re looking for. If you want over-the-top and hard boiled excitement, then Machete is your man.