It started out as a joke - one of the beloved fake trailers included in the Quentin Tarantino-Robert Rodriguez ‘Grindhouse’ double (2007). Then in 2010, the vengeful Mexican ‘Machete’ got his own feature film, with cult favourite Danny Trejo in the title role. Now Rodriguez and Trejo have reunited to give Machete another pulpy, preposterous adventure. The question is, does anyone really care?
Machete is recruited by the President (Carlos Estavez AKA Charlie Sheen) to hunt down a dangerous Cartel leader who has missiles directed at the United States. Under the guidance of beauty queen and secret agent Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), he follows the clues and finds a situation far more complex than anticipated, headed by maniacal millionaire clairvoyant Voz (Mel Gibson). To stop Voz, he recruits the help of old friend Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) and her Mexican army, all the while pursued by bounty hunter La Camaleón (Walter Goggins... and Cuba Gooding Jr... and Antonio Banderas... and Lady Gaga).
Robert Rodriguez seems to exist in a parallel world where he gets to make movies about whatever the hell he wants to, regardless of whether or not people want to see them. ‘Sin City’ (2005) and ‘Planet Terror’ were terrific, but let’s not forget he made a film based on a story his preschool son came up with. Another ‘Machete’ adventure seems completely unnecessary, especially as the first wasn’t very good at all, but this second film has some surprising charm. Starting with the trailer for the sequel to the film you’re about to watch, things escalate quickly from there into new levels of ridiculous and extreme violence. There are a few narrative twists that come as a surprise, though the film rarely follows through with them, and Rodriguez doesn’t embrace the Grindhouse aesthetic as completely as he probably should. There is a spit-and-polish to the film that betrays how crappy the filmmaking is, denying it of its kitsch value.
The performances are what actually make the film. Trejo mumbles his way through the film and has about as much charisma as a rock, but with women literally throwing themselves at him, that’s kinda the joke. Mel Gibson is having a tonne of fun being as ridiculous a villain as possible, and the supporting players are generally in good spirits. Amber Heard actually makes quite an impression, giving the strongest and most entertaining performance as the fast-talking and sassy beauty queen with secret intentions. And La Camaleón is a really terrific plot twist, especially with such a preposterous set of actors occupying the part. It’s the one memorable thing from the film. Overall this isn’t a showcase of great acting or filmmaking, but at least they’re having fun.
And that seems to be the biggest problem with these films. It just looks like a bunch of people with lots of money mucking around with their toys and expecting us to have as much fun as they are, when a lot of the time, we just aren’t in on the joke. ‘Machete Kills’ is intended to have cult appeal, but a film never becomes a cult favourite because it intends to. Robert Rodriguez has some skill as a filmmaker, but if he just keeps doing whatever he wants, he’ll just exhaust us all the more quickly. This level of complete creative freedom just makes him a crap version of Stanley Kubrick. At least the promise of a Machete adventure in space that opens the film sounds barmy enough that the franchise might finally consume itself.
This isn’t a showcase of great acting or filmmaking, but at least they’re having fun.
PICTURE & SOUND
Icon have given ‘Machete Kills’ a gorgeous 1080p 1.85:1 transfer, with all the Mexican tans and golds really popping off the screen. Detail is sharp and clear, and while it would have been more interesting if the film had been degraded to the B-grade rubbish it intends to be, at least the release replicates the intentions of the filmmakers. The same can be said for the thumping DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which never lets up with explosions, gun fights and preposterous thudding music.
There are no features included on this release.