Cinema Review – Machete Kills

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Robert Rodriguez gives Danny Trejo’s ex-federale Machete Cortez his second big screen feature outing in Machete Kills, a film which amps up all the stakes of its predecessor from everything from the gore to the star-power.  Given this outlandish excess , its disappointing that Machete Kills is never quite as entertaining as it promises to be.

After the death of his partner (Jessica Alba), Machete (Trejo) is recruited by the U.S. President (Carlos Estevez aka Charlie Sheen) to stop an unhinged Mexican revolutionary (Demian Bichir) from releasing a missile on Washington. Upon further investigation,Machete realises that the plan is being orchestrated by Voz (Mel Gibson) – a deranged industrialist who aims to set up his own society in space.

The above synopsis reads like a Roger Moore James Bond film (or a new entry into the director’s Spy Kids series) and that is exactly the outlandish nostalgia that Rodriguez is attempting to recreate.  Arguably the director does so, but overloads the film with so many set-pieces and cameos that we rarely have enough time to enjoy one scene without being frenziedly pushed onto the next. It seems Rodriguez has so many cameos to cram in that nothing ever truly feels developed or fleshed out enough to grip our attention for the full 108 minute runtime.

That is not to slam the cameos – as many of these are amongst the film’s most entertaining moments. Walt Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas all star as multi-masked assassin El Camaleon – with Rodriguez having a little fun with each incarnation before moving onto the next. However, other cameos – mainly Vanessa Hudgens’ feel out of place and underdeveloped. This lack of characterisation can be frustrating – Rodruguez and screenwriter Kyle Ward craft some fantastic characters – unfortunately, we just don’t see enough or learn enough about them.

Machete Kills is at its finest in the simpler moments, such as one sequence which sees Voz show Machete round his hi-tech lab filled with various elaborate Bond-esque gadgets and creations.  This scene presents us with many of the gadgets and weapons that will be used in Machete and Voz’s cavalcade of carnage later in the film. The outlandish set pieces and outrageous bursts of action are well-handled and are mostly a lot of fun. Machete and revolutionary, Mendez, escaping over the wall between Mexico and the US and an Austin Power’s esque shoot-out in Voz’s lair at the end, are amongst the standouts of the feature. Brief bursts of gore also add to the B-Movie feel of Machete Kills from Machete grappling goons onto exploding helicopters, to throwing their guts into spinning propellers. It is all nasty stuff but mostly a lot of fun.

Given that this is essentially a homage to exploitation cinema and the B-Movie, some more back-to-basics special effects would have been welcome. Occasional bad CGI can make the film look like a cheap and badly-produced TV movie – as opposed to a cheap and intentionally badly produced Grindhouse movie.

Danny Trejo is a likeable lead as the stoic Machete – a man of few words, yet when he does speak Trejo knows how to deliver a line to get a laugh. Little gags like referring to himself in the third person and delivering like ‘Machete don’t tweet’ adds some further fun and humour to the proceedings. Although, it is Mel Gibson’s delightfully hammy turn as Luther Voz that provides the film’s most endearing spark. Gibson plays the part with all the camp malice and charm of an iconic Bond villain – proving to beMachete Kills’ chief scene-stealer.

Demian Bichir, Walt Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Antonio Banderas add some further comic charm, whilst Lady Gaga impresses with a stylish flair. Rodriguez’s regular contributors Jessica Alba,  Michelle Rodriquez, Tom Savini, and Alexa Vaga are all welcome additions to the proceedings, whilst the gorgeous Amber Heard and feisty Sofia Vergara add to the outlandish charm of MacheteKills.

Rodriquez has delivered a solid sequel Machete but could have benefitted from a less is more approach.  However, there is much fun to be had in the seventies nostalgia and from an outrageous turn from Mel Gibson.

***1/2 Stars

Andrew McArthur

15 (UK)
11th October 2013
Robert Rodriguez
Danny Trejo, Amber Heard, Carlos Estevez, Mel Gibson, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr, Michelle Rodriguez, Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara

Originally posted at Andrew’s own blog Silver Screen Slags