Machete Kills , But Not At the Box Office

Wesley Emblidge ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

The very existence of Machete Kills is somewhat confusing. When Robert Rodriguez made the fake Machete trailer in 2007 it was a mildly amusing and forgettably short. Three years later when he decided to adapt it into a full feature, the joke wore thin within just a few minutes. The story of the former policeman turned laborer turned assassin (played by character actor Danny Trejo) let Rodriguez indulge in all the B-movie and “Mexican exploitation” film tropes he clearly loves, but as he ran through those it quickly became apparent there wasn’t much else there. So clearly, the best plan of action was to make a sequel.

When we pick up with Machete, his partner (Jessica Alba) has been killed off by a mysterious masked man (who, honestly, isn’t all that mysterious, but I won’t spoil it) after walking in on a nuclear weapons deal. The president (Charlie Sheen, going by his birth name Carlos Estevez) recruits Machete to go after a Mexican revolutionary with split personalities (Demián Bichir) and an arms dealer with a love for sci-fi movies (Mel Gibson). Along for the ride are an assortment of mini-villains that exist just to add action to the movie, including Sofía Vergara, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Walter Goggins.

Danny Trejo and Demian Bichir in Machete Kills. Photo Credit: Rico Torres.
Danny Trejo and Demian Bichir in Machete Kills. Photo Credit: Rico Torres.

Rodriguez reportedly had almost twice the budget of the first film, but it feels like he had half. Rodriguez steps in as cinematographer for the first film’s Jimmy Lindsey, and manages to conjure up even blander images that are even further than the Grindhouse films it draws from. The effects are also bigger, and as a result, much worse. An abundance of digital blood drips from the frame and the action sequences are always poorly shot, clumsily edited and cheap looking. This would be fine if Rodriguez went all the way in imitating the Grindhouse aesthetic, but really he only uses that excuse when it makes things easier for him.

The script is wafer thin, with attempts at a message about immigration ham-fisted into a story that barely exists to begin with. The movie is really an excuse for three things: bad action sequences, excessive but sporadically entertaining cameos, and a ton of setup for a sequel that looks a lot more entertaining than whatever this movie is. The film actually opens with a trailer for its supposedly planned sequel Machete Kills Again…In Space!, and much like the fake trailer that started this all, it’s much better than the actual movie.

Danny Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez in Machete Kills. Photo Credit: Rico Torres.
Danny Trejo and Michelle Rodriguez in Machete Kills. Photo Credit: Rico Torres.

Trejo is still a pretty terrible leading man, but then again it’s a somewhat thankless role to begin with. There’s really no charisma or anything fun about Machete, all he has is his catchphrase: “Machete don’t [insert reference here].” Bichir and Gibson are actually a lot of fun taking full advantage of their villainous characters, but they’re really the only thing that works in the movie. Much of the cast is good, but saddled with useless characters. However Lady Gaga (in her first performance) is truly awful, begging the question if Rodriguez hired her for any reason aside from having the joke of “Look! Lady Gaga!” Sheen is just treading water for his performance here, and although the idea of him playing the president is amusing in concept, in execution the joke wears thin.

But really, the entire joke of Machete wore thin a few minutes into the first movie, and here’s the problem: there doesn’t appear to be anything else Rodriguez actually wants to do with these movies. He doesn’t even care to resolve the plot at the end, choosing instead to set up a third movie with a plethora of random Star Wars references. Essentially, Machete Kills isn’t a movie, but rather a hodgepodge of random gags and bad action sequences, even worse than the original Machete. Fans of that first film will find something to enjoy, but anyone else will surely be lost wondering what they just spent $10 on.

Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

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