MRR Review: "Machete Kills"

Photo Credit: Open Road Films (II)

MRR Review: "Machete Kills"

Rating: R (strong bloody violence throughout, language, and some sexual content)
Length: 107 minutes
Release Date: October 11, 2013
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Genre: Action/Crime/Thriller

At the end of the first "Machete," the titular character, played by Danny Trejo, rides off into the sunset with beautiful immigration agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba), and all seems well in the world. In "Machete Kills," that world is turned upside down by Sartana's violent death, forcing the former Mexican federal into action. U.S. President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen, billed here under his birthname, Carlos Estevez) has just the job to help Machete tame his bloodlust—go into Mexico and apprehend a revolutionary named Mendez (Demian Bichir) who wants to launch a nuclear weapon toward the nation's capital. Machete will be aided by planted beauty queen Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), who is much more than a pretty, pageant-winning face.

Machete makes it down to Acapulco, killing everyone in his path who gives him the least bit of resistance. Once there, he realizes that the real culprit that he needs to find to stop the launch is Voz (Mel Gibson), a criminal mastermind who built the device that Mendoza plans to use. Voz is in the United States. So Machete must find his way out of Mexico to find him, but this proves to be a nearly impossible task. Along the way, he matches wits with the likes of several people who want him dead, not the least of which is a brothel madam, Desdemona (Sofía Vergara), who has a serious of powerful, campy weapons at her disposal.

Several big celebrities make cameos, including Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas, who play the same character in a delightful twist that will have audiences howling. Machete deals with all the craziness with his usual stone-faced bravery, leaving a path of blood and guts (which are sometimes used as ropes) in his wake.

Trejo is an actor who didn't actually aspire to be an actor when he first started making films. He was working in a non-acting capacity on a film when he was singled out for his distinctive face and tattoos. He earned a bit part on that film, and has been steadily making films, sometimes as many as ten a year, ever since. However, it wasn't until "Machete" that he became a well-known name in Hollywood, which is a bit ironic considering he barely utters a word. When he does say something, it is usually delivered in a serious deadpan that will get a laugh pretty much every time. This unlikely actor has become a master of this comic delivery, which is a huge reason why "Machete Kills" works as a comedy. Neither Trejo nor director Robert Rodriguez take themselves too seriously, and neither should the audience. Viewers who suspend their disbelief and just go along for the ride will find themselves thoroughly entertained.

As if Trejo's hilariously stoic deadpan delivery wasn't enough, there are a ton of cameos to keep the audience's attention. It almost feels as if Rodriguez called up half the celebrities he knows and asked them to come in for what looks to be about a day's work. Part of the fun of "Machete Kills" is that viewers get to keep guessing which random celebrities will show up next and just how willing they are to make fun of themselves. Celebrities are notoriously fussy about their image, so when several are willing to mock their public persona in an exploitation film like this, it's an impressive feat. It's also highly entertaining and keeps the film exciting as the body count ticks higher and higher as Machete goes about his business.

The Machete character was originally conceived as part of a one-minute fake movie trailer buried within the movie "Grindhouse," half of which was directed by Rodriguez. When audiences saw the fake trailer, they loved the character and concept, so it was fleshed out into a feature-length film called "Machete." Now, the character is part of a full-blown franchise, with the end of this film hinting at a third installment that could be the best, most outrageous Machete film yet. Whether or not Machete gets to have a third outing largely depends on how well "Machete Kills" does at the box office. Of course, Rodriguez has a penchant for making films on a shoestring budget, even with all the high-profile cameos. If he can make the proposed third film, "Machete Kills Again … in Space" on a small budget, then that will likely happen, as improbable as it seems. Until then, "Machete Kills" is a worthy sequel to the original that ups the ante for any future exploitation filmmakers.

Rating: 3 out of 5