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Machete Kills’ Sloppy But Fun

Kevin Noonan | Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Sometimes you have to throw story, plot continuity, character development, believability, moral sensibility, acting, aesthetics and, above all, subtlety to the wind and grab onto the one thing you know and hold on like it’s the last space shuttle to the moon before the world explodes into a million pieces – ridiculousness.
This is the one and only thread connecting Robert Rodriguez’s hyper-violent exploitation action film, “Machete Kills,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not a strong thread. No, the sheer dedication to the absolutely ridiculous throughout the film, whether it be a machine gun bra or a ray gun that turns people inside out, provides for an entertaining, if sloppy, confusing and overlong, watch.
Like the first installment in the series, 2010’s “Machete,” the film follows enigmatic ex-Federale Machete Cortez as he bounces around from one over-the-top action piece to the next, most of which feature his favorite tool, the machete.
The basic plot of the movie involves Machete tracking down a super missile (at the behest of the president of the United States, played by Charlie Sheen in one of the many hilarious celebrity cameos that keep the film from ever dragging too much) that’s been hijacked by a crazy Mexican drug dealer and revolutionary named Mendez.
Mendez, we soon find out, suffers from dissociative personality disorder and flips between psychotic drug dealer and inspired revolutionary against the drug trade at a moment’s notice. He’s wired the missile to his heart, which leads Machete to the missile’s manufacturer, the hyperbolically evil Voz, played by Mel Gibson.
Gibson gives his most entertaining performance to date as Voz, a parody of every over-explanatory and eccentric super villain in Hollywood history. Instead of playing into tired stereotypes of parody villains, Gibson brings a sincere energy to the ridiculousness of his character; he believes he’s a prophet, he’s obsessed with space and space weapons, and he’s a dedicated “Star Wars” fan.
Though not as successful as its predecessor at landing a point or developing a story, the movie’s sincerity in paying homage to the bad action movies it’s parodying keeps it from being stale or stupid.
It’s by no means a perfect movie. From the first minute, it’s unbelievably violent (I tried to count the seconds before the first person was killed but I got wrapped up in the action too fast to keep track). The violence is over the top to the point of being cartoonish, as all bad B action movies are, but at $20 million, this film’s budget is quite a bit larger than those notoriously cheap movies, and sometimes the bloodshed is a little too real here.
And at 108 minutes, “Machete Kills” may seem like a fast movie, but it drags in the middle almost to the point of killing the pace of the film, and it ends up at least 20 minutes too long.
That being said, those 20 minutes include some of the brief star appearances that became one of the best running gags of the movie. Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Alexa Vega, Sofía Vergara and William Sadler have small, but generally hilarious, bits in addition to Amber Heard and Michelle Rodriguez’s co-starring roles, all of which show how much fun movies like this must be for the actors. Or maybe Robert Rodriguez just blackmailed them all.
The subdued, near-silent performance from Danny Trejo as the titular Mexican superhero is what makes the movie, though. With a sillier actor, all the explosions, gun battles and blood splatter might devolve into pure camp, but Trejo’s unmoved seriousness grounds the movie and provides a contrast to the ridiculousness that makes the entertainment possible.
In the end, if you can stomach a little blood and a few severed limbs, “Machete Kills” is an imperfect but undoubtedly fun action ride.
Contact Kevin Noonan at