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'Machete Kills' suffers a slow death by a dull edge

Open Road

By Karsten Smolinski, For the Daily
Published October 18, 2013

Director Robert Rodriguez’s (“Machete”) latest tribute to exploitation cinema isn’t just bloody — it’s a bloody mess. The near incoherent story, uninspired action sequences and stale dialogue place this film firmly in “to be avoided” territory.

In this sequel to 2010’s “Machete,” Danny Trejo (“Spy Kids”) reprises his role as the titular character — an unstoppable, emotionless (or is that just Trejo?) badass whose preferred method of murdering his enemies is with a machete. He’s basically the Hispanic version of Steven Seagal. Machete’s mission begins in earnest when the president of the United States, played by Charlie Sheen (“Scary MoVie”) — who’s billed in the movie under his birth name, Carlos Estevez — charges Machete with preventing the nuclear destruction of the world. Machete then predictably proceeds to cut his way through countless cartel members and nameless henchmen in a haze of gimmicky and gory violence.

One of the film’s primary antagonists is El Camaleón, a face-changing assassin hunting Machete. El Camaleón is played in turn by a slew of different actors such as Walton Goggins (“Django Unchained”), Cuba Gooding Jr. (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”), Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas (“Puss in Boots”). This may seem like a convenient excuse to present a string of celebrity cameos, but he/she represents the most innovative character in a long line of stock villains.

Unfortunately, Sofía Vergara’s (“Modern Family”) character, a Mexican dominatrix and bordello operator, is one of the villains that completely fail to entertain. Her “Double-D’s,” an iron bra with machine-guns, could have been ripped straight from “Austen Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.”

Too lazy to be exciting and too banal to be humorous, “Machete Kills” fails to live up to its predecessor’s clever satirization of the action genre. Instead, it comes off as a shoddy product made up of boring fight scenes and cheesy one-liners you’ve already heard in a hundred other movies. Excessive heavy metal music, a cast of highly dispensable characters and Tarantino levels of gore aren’t near enough to make a trip to the theater worth anyone’s time.

Rodriguez even tries to shoehorn in a political statement regarding U.S. immigration policy, featuring a wall between the U.S. and Mexico as one of the obstacles that Machete must overcome. However, Rodriguez’s efforts here seem entirely ineffectual. How can anyone take a political message seriously when it’s in a movie that no one, not even its fans, can take seriously?

Eventually, Machete carves his way to Voz (Mel Gibson, “The Beaver”), the insane arms dealer plotting to destroy the world and the man responsible for killing Machete’s partner. However, the ridiculous plot doesn’t entirely conclude there, opting instead to set up a third installment. The trailers for part three attached to the beginning and end of “Machete Kills” indicate that Machete will be slaying foes in outer space with a laser-machete.

When someone sets out to make a terrible movie, there’s always a strong risk that it will turn out actually terrible. Sure, “Machete Kills” is supposed to be “bad,” but it’s also supposed to make fun of the films that influenced it and not just imitate all of their worst qualities. When everything’s said and done, things don’t bode well for Machete in space.


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