MOTW: "Machete Kills" Review

Photo Credit: Open Road Films (II)

MOTW: "Machete Kills" Review

Rating: R (Strong bloody violence, language, some sexual content)
Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 11, 2013
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller

"Machete Kills" is the upcoming sequel to the 2010 film "Machete." The film's titular character is played by legendary action star Danny Trejo. Machete is a hired hand who will kill anyone for a price. In the first film, he was double-crossed by an employer and embarked on a lengthy and bloody quest for revenge. The upcoming film opens with Machete being hired by the United States government to hunt down a notorious arms dealer who wants to launch dangerous weapons into space that could threaten the safety of Earth. Machete agrees and sets out on his quest, racking up a death toll to rival a small nation's population along the way.

"Machete" and its sequel are exploitation films, using satire and gratuitous violence as a medium for social commentary and humor. "Machete Kills" is filmed in a style similar to "Kill Bill" and "Grindhouse," and director Robert Rodriguez acknowledges that much of his inspiration came from those films. Machete is largely an amalgamation of various invulnerable, hyper-masculine action film protagonists, particularly those played by Sylvester Stallone and Steven Seagal. In addition to Danny Trejo, the film features a star-studded cast that includes some of the most well-known names in Hollywood, including Sofia Vergara as Madame Desdemona, Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio, Michelle Rodriguez as Shé, and Antonio Banderas asEl Cameleón. Jessica Alba, Vanessa Hudgens, Mel Gibson, Lady Gaga, and Charlie Sheen also appear in supporting roles throughout the film.

Like "Kill Bill," "Machete Kills" follows various story arcs in which the protagonist approaches those on his hit list one at a time. Machete is an over-the-top antihero who only seems to truly care about killing, a skill which he has elevated into a grotesque art form. The film is loaded with gory scenes and eerily creative methods of killing that are sure to shock even the most jaded film lover. That seems to be exactly what director Rodriguez intended, and the hard work that went into choreographing each scene shows. The special effects are intentionally larger than life, adding a comic-book feel to the movie. Saturated colors and wild costumes set an atmosphere reminiscent of classic exploitation Western films.

"Machete Kills" is both a comedy and an action adventure, and the acting succeeds on both fronts. The script is loaded with hilarious one-liners and enough campy humor to keep you laughing throughout the entire film. The irreverent comedy is exactly what is needed to lighten the often dark and intense action violence. Even the most grotesque scenes are pulled off in a way that fits with the rest of the film. Machete is somehow sympathetic in spite of his blood-spattered past and deadpan personality. His character contrasts sharply with the colorful, huge personalities he meets along the way.

Amber Heard may be a relative newcomer to the big screen, but she fills the comedic stilettos of Miss San Antonio perfectly. Her character is a charming, homespun beauty queen with a penchant for advanced weaponry who outfits Machete with all he needs to complete his mission for the government. Fans of the first film will find it amusing to witness Machete's transformation from a hired gun tasked with assassinating a senator to a hired gun being employed by the government. Machete may have been hired to stop an infamous arms dealer from spreading chaos and threatening the security of the planet, but that doesn't make him a hero. Throughout the film, he maintains his rough edge and calculating wits, making him an unconventional yet fascinating protagonist.

"Machete Kills" is a brilliant film that manages to pay homage to the genre from which it draws inspiration while simultaneously mocking it. Although the film is extremely violent, it has an undeniably artistic flair, especially in its many choreographed fight scenes. The film is also loaded with solid characters who are full of life and humor, including the villains. In addition to the film's pitch-perfect script and manic cinematography, "Machete Kills" is worth the price of admission for its all-star cast list alone. It's difficult to pull off a film that blends action, comedy, and inspiration from so many different genres and pop-culture references, but Robert Rodriguez makes it look easy. For those who enjoy a bloody, action-packed thrill ride with an irreverent sense of humor and impeccable style, "Machete Kills" is guaranteed to please.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5