“Machete Kills” Movie Review

     You have to hand it to director Robert Rodriguez.  You may recall; included with he and Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 double feature “Grindhouse” was a series of faux movie trailers before the beginnings of both “Death Proof” and “Planet Terror”.  The most popular of which was a preview for a film about an ex Federale turned Drug Cartel hit man called “Machete” played by Danny Trejo.  The trailer became a cult hit and established a sort of following, which enabled Rodriguez to make the film a reality with 2010’s “Machete”.  The result was sort of a novelty.  Kind of like your favorite ice cream flavor from your childhood that isn’t made any longer, but is brought back for a limited time.  For those who loved the swath of exploitation films made in the 1970s, “Machete” brought that nostalgic feeling back, with purposely over the top sex and violence and a lead character that’s impossible not to root for.

     Unfortunately, the sequel “Machete Kills” plays like a rerun, containing everything that made the first film fun to watch and adding nothing to set it apart and perhaps take a step forward in the series.  Whereas the first film was loaded with surprises, keeping the viewer watching just to see what will happen next, “Machete Kills” is highly predictable and relies heavily on recycling similar action sequences and dialogue from it’s predecessor.  Yes, Machete still prefers to find interesting uses for people’s intestines and constantly blurts out sentences that begin with “Machete don’t”, upgrading from the first film when all the rage was texting, he now “don’t Tweet”.

     The plot is truly all over the place, with Kyle Ward’s screenplay having a very glued together kind of feel to it.  There are scenes and characters which really make no sense.  Now I know with this series paying homage to the trash cinema it’s hoping to emulate, you would think Rodriguez would want to get the most out of each character and have them play meaningful roles which are easily absorbed within each act.  The films of the 70s, after all, were not complicated and if anything, they were straight to the point.  One such character in “Machete Kills”, known as the “Camaleon”, has some of the best scenes and lines throughout, played by Walton Goggins, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Antonio Banderas as a masked vigilante, yet doesn’t fit at all within the framework of the story.  In fact, the story moves dangerously close to being a “Bond” spoof and thus the “Austin Powers” vibe is ever present and doesn’t fit with the tone set in the first film at all.

     In the film’s opening, Machete (Danny Trejo) is working with ICE Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) when their operation is thwarted by an unknown group of mercenaries led by a guy in a “Nacho Libre” wrestling mask.  Shortly thereafter, Machete is summoned to the White House by President Rathcock (Carlos Estevez A.K.A. Charlie Sheen) and sent on a mission to locate a terrorist, Mendez (Damian Bichir) in Mexico who is said to be in control of a nuclear missile.  This is merely a set up for Machete to work his way through whore houses and other evil doer’s strongholds killing everyone in sight with the most over the top methods Rodriguez and his crew can think of.  Various characters appear on screen for only seconds and then find themselves victim to some kind of double cross and are killed off.  There comes a point where there’s nothing interesting left on screen, leaving Trejo to carry the film, which he is clearly not equipped to do.  Such an important character in the first film, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) joins the proceedings so late,  you get the idea maybe they had forgotten about her. 

     As we arrive to the third act, Mel Gibson is introduced as the lead bad guy, Voz, and we are taken through his evil plan step by step, almost Dr. Evil style.  Turns out Voz has missiles pointed at several targets around the world and plans to destroy the human race while he and a chosen few are safe in a space station above Earth.  It’s worth mentioning Voz explains his evil plan to Machete while touring his evil layer in a replica of a “Star Wars” landspeeder.  When even Machete gives the vehicle a strange look, Voz quips “What can I say, I like Star Wars!”.  Voz even encases one of the main characters in “carbonite” for her trip to space!  Most of the last 20 minutes plays the same way “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” did at the same point in that film.  I half expected Chris Rock to appear and say “I think George Lucas is gonna sue somebody!” Then again, George Lucas doesn’t own “Star Wars” anymore, so I guess it doesn’t matter.  All of this, if you can believe it, is merely a set up for the third film in the series, “Machete Kills Again...In Space”, that is faux previewed at the beginning of this film.  So apparently, there’s more to come and I wouldn’t expect any improvements because at this point, it is what it is.  GRADE: D