Inexpressive ex-Federale Machete (Trejo) is recruited by the American President (Estevez) to deal with an insane Mexican ex-cartel man-cum-revolutionary (Bichir) who has a nuke pointed at Washington.
Machete is back. Did we want him back? Who fuckin’ cares? He’s back anyway, in the sequel to the movie of the minute-long faux trailer which appeared in a double-bill feature (Grindhouse) that barely anyone saw.
In the modern studio system, this could never happen. But Machete don’t need greenlights. Machete Kills is another Rodriguez backyard production: cheap, cheerful and no doubt comfortably profitable. It’s an admirable business model, but the same can’t always be said of its output. Like its predecessor, this is a knowing killer-B pastiche, an outré Mexploitationer which attempts to make a virtue of its visual and storytelling sloppiness, as if Rodriguez is showing all his Get Out Of Jail Free cards and flashing a big, winning grin.
Well, that only gets him so far. It doesn’t excuse the dank whiff of sexism which pervades both Machetes. Giving Sofía Vergara a machine-gun DD-bra doesn’t count as empowerment. It also doesn’t excuse lines like, “I chewed my father’s balls off… with my teeth!” (spoken, again, by the poor Vergara). But it’s all a joke right? Lighten the fuck up, dude!... Thus could any attempt at a serious discussion about Machete Kills end.
Like a Grindhouse Woody Allen, Rodriguez attracts much talent, albeit off the boil, to his high-turnover cheapies, here once more surrounding Danny Trejo (not actually a terrible actor, but as Machete directed to possess all the charisma of a tree stump) with game-for-a-laugh famous faces in a series of stunt cameos. Which, frankly, are the film’s biggest attraction. Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas and, yeah, Lady Gaga all appear — playing the same character. Charlie Sheen, who in the opening credits is “introduced” with his real name Carlos Estevez, plays “the President of the fuckin’ United States, man”. And Mel Gibson kicks things up a notch whenever he appears — aided by the fact that by the time he arrives, Rodriguez has decided this is in fact a semi-sci-fi Bond spoof with Moonraker’s plot and Gibson as his version of Hugo Drax. Who wears a turquoise uniform and, in one scene, attacks Trejo with a Klingon bat’leth. Thus does this attempt at a serious review of Machete Kills end.
Violent, silly, embarrassing, clumsy, confusing, juvenile, occasionally offensive, occasionally a little bit fun.