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Machete Kills

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    Posted: Jul-27-2015 at 11:43am
machette kills movie posterMachete Kills (2013) Rated R
Starring Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Amber Heard, Sofía Vergara, Demian Bichir
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Reviewed by Peter Hildebrand
Rating: (3.5/5) 

Someone who has only seen the first Machete movie could be forgiven some puzzlement as to why the sequel is being reviewed on a website dedicated to science fiction and fantasy.

The first clue that Machete Kills isn’t going to be a straightforward action movie comes in the form of a trailer that plays before the actual film, much like the joke trailer that spawned the first Machete movie. The trailer advertises yet another installment in the Machete franchise, this time called “Machete Kills Again… in Space.” Then, just several minutes into the movie, a character is killed (no spoilers) by a laser gun.

These science fiction elements are part of the manic, nearly overstuffed plot. Other elements of the story include a billionaire who can see the future, a shape-shifting assassin, a drug lord with a split personality, a cloned army of super soldiers, and Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder from A New Hope. At certain moments, the movie left me feeling weary. It exploded from one plot point to the next, constantly introducing evermore outrageous elements. But overall, I think Rodriguez succeeded in keeping all these balls in the air. Old story hooks were discarded as soon as new ones came along, and I was never at a loss for what was happening.

Amid all of this, there isn’t much room left for acting. The script doesn’t ask for a lot from Trejo, except that he dish up blade-based justice in new and creative ways (often at the expense of physics). He performs admirably anyway, giving a performance that channels Toshiro Mifune, with more than a touch of comic self-awareness.

In fact, the whole film excels at self-awareness. It drops the hackneyed politics of the first film, and focuses on the crazy plotting mentioned above. There are lots of signals to the viewer that Rodriguez isn’t taking himself too seriously. My favorite was the credit given to Charlie Sheen, "introducing" him as Carlos Estevez. Sheen, by the way, is essentially playing himself… as the president of the United States. Given that the Machete series was spawned from a joke trailer in an intentionally campy double feature, the silliness in Machete Kills feels like making good on the original promise.

Unfortunately, Rodriguez seems to have developed some bad habits as well. Watch this movie back-to-back with Sin City, and it’s easy to see Frank Miller’s hypermasculine influence on Rodriguez’s style. Machete Kills shares several elements with Sin City, but the most conspicuous is a cabal of killer prostitutes. These women slay their victims without mercy, or seemingly, reason. They do have a pretense for appearing in the film, but it’s so thin as to be transparent; Rodriguez simply wanted to sex up the film with actress Sofia Vergara’s weaponized breasts. A side note- the film’s official twitter page seems to revel in the fact that some of the actresses depicting prostitutes were mute eye-candy, making my viewing of the film feel retroactively sleazy.

In addition, the stronger female characters from the first movie were reduced to brief walk-on roles in this one. While disappointing, it’s not at all surprising to see them neglected in this way. So, if you think you can look past that, and you’re in the mood for an exploitation film, Machete Kills should be right up your alley.
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