Machete Kills (2013) – A Review

Machete Kills 2013 Danny Trejo Michelle Rodriguez
Danny Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez in Machete Kills

Danny Trejo returns as the mythic ex-Mexican Federale Machete, who dishes out lethal justice to any evildoer he gets within sight of. What started out as a spoof trailer in 2007’s Grindhouse, elevated into an actual film by director Robert Rodriguez in 2010. I thought it was a pretty fun flick. Now it’s time for a Machete sequel. And sadly the fun is over.

This is an idea that has worn out its welcome and offers nothing new. I really wanted to get into the exploitation spirit of it again, but this time it goes so overboard and gets so monumentally silly I just couldn’t.

I guess Rodriguez didn’t know where else to go with another Machete adventure so he dials everything up to eleven, takes it into sci-fi territory. throws in some spy-type gadgets and makes it even more of a parody than it started out as.

Sitting through Machete Kills was a numbing experience. I kept waiting for things to pick up, for the movie to start getting some inspiration, to show off some hardcore action and make this second time around with Machete as entertaining as the the first flick. Instead it crashes amongst all the tired offerings it manages to scrap together.

Machete Kills Danny Trejo Mel Gibson
Trejo and Mel Gibson doing a Star Wars gag

The plot is pretty inconsequential. Machete gets recruited by the President (Charlie Sheen) to stop a Mexican revolutionary (Demian Bichir) from firing a missile at the White House.

If that’s not enough of a story to lead to some Machete-slicing action Rodriguez adds even more over-the-top flavoring with a bad guy possessing multiple personalities, an assassin with shape shifting talents, a government agent posing as a beauty pageant contestant, a dangerous madame armed with a machine gun bra and a backup of gun-toting hookers, an endless army of deadly clones, the planned extinction of the planet and an orbiting space station where the villain will flee to ala Moonraker.

Perhaps all this could have come together for an entertaining, schlocky action flick, but here with each new wild addition to the story the movie throws at us it all falls flat. It’s unfunny, it’s not creative and it just lumbers to an ending with a setup for an even sillier sounding sequel.

The first film played as a more straight-forward action movie with a sprinkling of those silly schlock cinema elements to it. Machete Kills is the opposite. Never for a moment can you take any of it seriously.

Trejo does his taciturn hero role. This time he has much less to do. Michelle Rodriguez gives her usual tough girl performance which consists of her maintaining a stern face. The movie piles in a host of recognizable names for supporting parts – Sheen, Mel Gibson, Sofía Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga – and their participation doesn’t amount to anything special.

I wasn’t impressed by the novelty of this eclectic cast, especially since they didn’t have anything funny to do. Most come and go from the screen without leaving any kind of impact.

Maybe they wanted to work with Rodriguez. Or maybe they thought it sounded fun to be part of a ‘hip’ and ‘not-so-serious’ movie. It would give them a chance to go overboard with their performances, have a little fun and allow them to wink at the audience that they’re in on the joke. It’s too bad it’s a pretty bad joke they’re telling.

sexy killer girls in Machete Kills
Eye-candy – one of the few positive things in Machete Kills

The characters recite banal lines. The story itself leapfrogs from one outlandish thing to another. I know it’s supposed to be a wild movie, but a little coherency would have helped.

Even the action scenes, something I would have expected to deliver some entertainment, are completely forgettable. The use of CGI effects help make the unbelievable action even more cheap looking and it’s a less visceral experience. Trejo sporadically slices and beheads some bad guys, but it’s all done so blandly that I was left thinking “That’s it for that scene?”

Trejo’s hero actually begins to disappear into the background a lot of the time while the guest stars and ridiculous story pushes him aside. Trejo’s Machete is no longer an action character here. There’s no exhilaration seeing him get into a fight or getting shot at. Here, he essentially has become a cartoon.

In the movie he literally can’t be killed. I’m not joking! He gets shot full of bullets and wakes up revived in some kind of space-age healing bath or something.

There doesn’t appear to be any enthusiasm by Rodriguez either. The excitement and wild, inventive camerawork he employed in his earlier films, like El mariachi is nowhere to be found. He opens and ends Machete Kills with a tease of a third adventure Machete Kills Again In Space.

Rodriguez was either being overly optimistic or it was just another poor joke the film eeked out. It might be time to retire Machete. Especially if we can expect only more of this.


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