Published Oct 10, 2013Upfront: Machete Kills is superior to its predecessor in every way. What audiences want from Robert Rodriguez's unlikely franchise is bombastic violence mixed with tongue-in-cheek sexual exploitation and action movie absurdities piled sky high. And that's what the Sin City director remembered this time out: why have only one intestine gag when you could have several?
Bigger, louder, grosser and, surprisingly, clearer, Machete Kills does everything the first film did, but with a professional sheen and gusto Rodriguez hasn't displayed in close to a decade. Gone are the aesthetic trappings of the first's Grindhouse association — this is a modern film using all the tricks and tools of the trade to make the best damn B-movie possible.
It's a greater challenge to make over-the-top gore gags convincing in crystalline HD than with the shielding of purposeful flaws, one the boyish auteur meets handily. For the most part, this movie looks great and when it enters extra hokey territory near the end, there's enough ridiculousness going on to make the obvious green screen work easy to accept.
For those thinking, or hoping, that Rodriguez would soften the political angle of Machete this time around, he didn't, which is a good thing. What he did was hone and inflate that aspect of the story to epic proportions. On a new mission after a personal tragedy, Machete (Danny Trejo) is charged with taking down a Mexican revolutionary who wants the U.S. to invade Mexico and clean up the cartels. His motivator: a big friggin' missile pointed at the White House.
Casting is another area Rodriguez greatly improved upon for this frequently mirthful, squirm-inducing sequel. Demian Bichir has a fantastic time chewing the scenery as Mendez, a political pawn with a split personality disorder; Mel Gibson embraces minor self-parody as a rich weapons manufacturer; Carlos Estevez (Charlie Sheen) as the President of the United States is a self-explanatory joke; Spanish martial artist Marko Zaror is finally given a visible stateside job; and the way the role of El Camaleon is approached supplies plenty of effective comedy fodder for a variety of performers.
On the estrogen front, Michelle Rodriguez is back and as badass as ever, and with the exception of Alexa Vega (Spy Kids), who isn't given much to do other than show off her curves, the eye candy can act (Amber Heard) or at least play a raving psycho and sound funny while saying "pussy" (Sofia Vergara).
Provided Machete Kills doesn't tank at the box office, it's safe to assume that the trailer preceding the picture — Machete Kills Again… In Space! — is more of a promise of intent than another gag. Being the sly purveyor of winking ham he is though, Rodriguez ensures that the tease of space-faring adventure (which this movie leads directly into) works just as well as a laughably ludicrous conclusion to this enjoyable schlock as it does a placeholder. (VVS)