Review by Paul Stathakis | October 24, 2013

A stale taco

Direc­tor Robert Rodriguez does­n’t know how to let go of an idea. He turned his debut fea­ture film “El Mari­achi” into a tril­o­gy. Then, he did the same with “Spy Kids.” Now he’s doing it again with his “Machete” char­ac­ter months before he’s to release a sec­ond “Sin City” film. When you have these many sequels in the works, your time is near­ly up. After see­ing “Machete Kills”, one thing is cer­tain: the Mex­i­can direc­tor’s pen is run­ning dry. This is a loud and sil­ly sequel that, unlike the first install­ment, takes itself too seri­ous­ly. If that was­n’t bad enough, there’s a slew of cameo appear­ances aimed at keep­ing the film afloat but even those parts don’t help. The warn­ing, this time, comes ear­ly: avoid this film like the plague.

Machete kills. That’s what he does,” says the U.S. Pres­i­dent played by Char­lie Sheen. Indeed, that’s prob­a­bly the only thing that Machete (Dan­ny Tre­jo) knows how to do. In this sequel, Machete is hired by the Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States (Char­lie Sheen) to locate and stop Luther Voz (Mel Gib­son), a lunatic arms deal­er with plans to launch a mis­sile into space. Gib­son’s role as the vil­lain in “Machete Kills” is unsur­pris­ing­ly the best thing that the film has to offer. This is a refresh­ing wel­come back to form for Gib­son who, since his nasty medi­a­tized divorce, has been hid­ing in the shad­ows. As Voz, Gib­son seems to be hav­ing a ball. Even in a lack­lus­ter film like “Machete Kills” Gib­son is still able to turn in a per­for­mance that stands out from the rest.

Some actors from the first “Machete” film return, notably Jes­si­ca Alba and Michelle Rodriguez as Shé, the leader of an ille­gal immi­grant aid move­ment known as the Net­work. Rodriguez loves to work with big casts. “Machete” fea­tured vet­er­ans Robert De Niro, Don John­son, and Steven Sea­gal . There is an equal­ly long list of big names mak­ing appear­ances in “Machete Kills”,  half of which don’t make much sense. Lady Gaga is one of them. Her role is a mere excuse to attract a cer­tain demo­graph­ic and for the famed pop singer to try her hand at act­ing. How sil­ly is it than her char­ac­ter is just as strange as her singer per­sona?  Cuba Good­ing Jr., a tal­ent­ed actor, also has a small unmem­o­rable part. Sofia Ver­gara and Amber Heard are also part of the cast. This is Ver­gara’s first ever film role and she stars as a broth­el patron. Though she deliv­ers a great mono­logue about abuse, her role serves as a filler as does Heard’s. What­ev­er act­ing tal­ent these women pos­sess is sad­ly not explored because Rodriguez seems infi­nite­ly more inter­est­ed in their bod­ies than their acting.

The first “Machete” film was fun. It was released fol­low­ing Rodriguez’s “Plan­et Ter­ror” and, in essence, it was a con­tin­u­a­tion of his trib­ute to exploita­tion films. A great deal of work went into mak­ing the film look ama­teur­ish with scratchy grainy footage, poor edit­ing, over­act­ing, and cheesy one-lin­ers. “Machete Kills” does­n’t offer that same expe­ri­ence. This feels like a big­ger bud­get remake of a B‑movie. With the excep­tion of an amus­ing fake trail­er that opens the movie, there is noth­ing that screams orig­i­nal­i­ty. If you like high body counts, this is just the film for you. Some sequences are so over­loaded and over­crowd­ed that it’s dif­fi­cult to take in any of the action. It’s as if the direc­tor felt an oblig­a­tion to fit every­thing and every­one in the film’s 100 minute run­ning time. It is high­ly prob­a­ble that there are more killings here than in any oth­er recent action film released. Some of these killings are also some of the grue­somest you’re like­ly to see this year on a big screen. To give you an idea, pic­ture a man’s intestines being ripped out and then tossed into a heli­copter’s rotor. The first install­ment was vio­lent enough but the sequel real­ly push­es the bound­aries. If it were remote­ly orig­i­nal, we might have been more for­giv­ing. But it’s sense­less. To those with sen­si­tive stom­achs, this is 100 min­utes of pure torture.Really makes you won­der why some seri­ous­ly tal­ent­ed inde­pen­dent film­mak­ers are being over­looked in favor of dull films like this one.

Machete Kills” is a prod­uct by a direc­tor who makes movies for his own per­son­al ful­fill­ment. Who cares if it’s inco­her­ent? Who cares if it’s repul­sive to look at? Who cares if it makes your eyes roll? Who cares if your stom­ach turns? Who cares if it hurts your ears? Who cares if you leave the the­ater upset? That appears to be Rodriguez’s atti­tude. He does­n’t seem to care and it shows in vir­tu­al­ly each frame of “Machete Kills.” On the poster, Rodriguez’s name is clear­ly vis­i­ble just above the title but I won­der how long it’ll be before he has to start hid­ing it to attract an audi­ence. This is the work of a film­mak­er who’s quick­ly los­ing his cre­ative edge. If he con­tin­ues down this path, it may be too late for him to return to form. And I’m being nice.


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