Review: Machete Kills – Still reveling in irreverence
Rebel filmmaker Robert Rodriguez is back again with his “mexploitation” hero, Machete, who started as just a gimmicky character in a faux trailer that played before the Planet Terror portion of the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature back in 2007. If you are a fan of that brand of B-movie absurdity, then you are most likely going to be thrilled with the latest installment, Machete Kills.
Veteran character actor, Danny Trejo, reprises his role as Machete Cortez, the legendary ex- federale turned freelance mercenary, who is a cross between Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood and several miles of bad dirt road.
This time around, Machete is called on by no less than the President of the United States (played by Carlos Estevez – Charlie Sheen’s real name) to go south of the border and stop “Mendez the Madman,” a Mexican revolutionary with a multiple-personality disorder, from launching a missile on Washington D.C.
Along the way Machete works with sexy secret agent and beauty pageant contestant, Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), as he goes up against Mendez. Along the way he, of course, ends up with a price on his head and has run-ins with the likes of Madame Desdemona (Sofía Vergara), who uses a bullet shooting brassiere, and El Chameleón, a face & body changing bounty hunter (who is played by Lady Gaga in her first movie role, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Antonio Banderas.)
It turns out the real villain is an arms manufacturer, Luther Voz, played by the much maligned Mel Gibson. Voz plans to destroy the world and then escape into space where he will rebuild the planet to his own design – and only the reluctant anti-hero, Machete, can stop him.
This is all cornball craziness that you are either going to love or hate, Machete don’t do middle-ground. I thought it was a lot of fun and the film is bookended by a hilarious storyline that I don’t want to say too much about, but, just a hint, I’m excited to see if Machete makes an appearance in a certain “Episode VII” that we’ve been hearing so much about.
It was great to see stars Gibson and Sheen back on the big screen and obviously having some fun after having their personal lives run through the gutter over the past couple of years. Bravo to Rodriguez for giving them a hand up. It was also mindboggling to see Sofía Vergara go from her Emmy nomination and the red carpet of the awards ceremony a few days ago to the weaponized-prosthetic wearing villainess and dominatrix, Madame Desdemona.
Other Rodriguez regulars, like Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Alexa Vega and the twins, Electra and Elise Avellan, also return in Machete Kills, providing plenty of fanboy (or girl) eye-candy. Rodriguez especially does a great job as the eye-patched Shé, the female equivalent of Machete (but oh so much easier on the eyes.)
I’ve been a fan of director Robert Rodriguez since I first saw him on the Tonight Show twenty years ago, when he was just a kid wunderkind who had made El Mariachi for just a few thousand dollars. He’s stayed true to his roots and is obviously still having a blast making the kind of movies he loves – on the cheap – Hollywood be damned. Good for him.
Machete Kills is exactly what it is meant to be – homage to the grindhouse films of the seventies and eighties. It’s a couple of hours of goofy melodramatic action and laughs, mixed with a heavy dose of machismo and sexploitation, but if you check your pretensions at the door, you’re going to have a great time. Grade: 7/10
Photos © 2013 Open Road Films