Machete Kills (2013) – Review

3 Stars


Machete Kills is the most purely enjoyable and arguably the most creative film from Robert Rodriguez since his much celebrated Sin City some 8 long years ago. The first film was the feature-length fleshing out of a fake trailer from the grindhouse collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. The earlier film felt constrained to a stitched together narrative slave to the clips in the 3 minute mock preview. This time out the screenplay is fresher, funnier, more clever and outlandish in equal measures, with intentionally bad special effects, over-the-top sexual situations and some of the most cheerfully horrific death scenes this side of Ridley Scott.

Keeping in the spirit of the grindhouse pictures of his youth Rodriguez starts this film with a trailer for Machete Kills in Space, a sequel to the movie that is about to un-spool before us. It should come as little surprise then that by the picture’s climax our Mexican hero is launched into the cosmos. This sequel is based on a story by the director and his son Marcel Rodriguez, with a screenplay by Kyle Ward. The writing is sharper than you might expect and definitely stronger than the genre being emulated would normally require.

Ex Federal Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) is recruited by U.S. President Rathcock (Carlos Estevez aka Charlie Sheen) to cross the border into Mexico and retrieve a dangerous revolutionary who intends to launch a weapon into Washington D.C.. The militant rebel Mendez (Demian Bichir) is also a crazed madman who exhibits vast mood swings and shifts in personalities by the minute. The performance from OSCAR nominee Demian Bichir is one of the film’s high points, along with a welcomed return from fallen screen idol Mel Gibson. In his few minutes on-screen Gibson reminds why he was once and possibly still is one of the greatest movie stars of his generation. Sheen nails the President with gusto and makes you wish the guy could keep it together long enough to get some roles again. I miss seeing him command the screen like he did in yesteryear.

Machete Kills is filled with famous faces in fleeting roles, which adds to the surprise when someone doesn’t make it to the end credits. In fact every role is cast with a recognizable celebrity, this is put to especially good use with the character known as The Chameleon, an assassin who can manipulate his appearance at will. Rodriguez employees three actors and one actress to portray the shedding killer. This is counter-mined by a few ill-conceived characters and scenes, in particular the man-hating brothel owner played by Sofia Vergara. There is far more to like this time out, the story is stronger, the acting is better and the kills are more gloriously violent than ever. I don’t think we will ever see the proposed third installment the trailer teases, but viva Machete nonetheless.

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Stars: Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Jessica Alba

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