In “Machete Kills,” the further adventures of Robert Rodriguez’s titular vengeance seeking ex-Mexican federale, the director comes up with new ways to cut a person in half. For the first time (in my memory anyway) a human being is bisected down the middle from cranium to crotch.
Unfortunately it’s the only new idea in a movie that slavishly pays tribute to el cheapo grindhouse flicks.
Danny Trejo is back and badder-than-ever as Machete. The man with the deadly machete is on the biggest caper of his career. Recruited by the President of the United States (Carlos Estevez)—with the lure of a green card—his mission is to find Marcos “the Madman” Mendes (Demian Bichir), a mentally unstable man turned terrorist who lives in an Aztec ruin along with a private army and a rocket aimed at Washington. “You know Mexico,” POTUS says to our hero. “Hell, you are Mexico!”
The trail to Mendes is littered with colourful characters, including a “man eating” madame (Sofía Vergara), a mysterious bounty hunter called El Cameleón (no spoilers here!) and billionaire arms dealer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson).
“Machete Kills” echoes the arch performances, over-the-top violence and cheeseball dialogue off the grainy old grindhouse movies that inspired Rodriguez in the first place. He nails the look and feel of those not-so-classic films—although he relies a bit too heavily on computer-generated gore over good old-fashioned special effects—but this time out he misses the spirit that made them great. I guess it’s harder to make a good bad movie than I thought.
It starts strong with a wild action sequence jammed with spraying splatter and gory gags. Stretch that out to a tight eighty-five minutes and “Machete Kills” would have been a fun guilty pleasure Saturday afternoon matinee. At one-hour-and-forty-five minutes, however, it feels drawn out, filled with scenes that seem to exist only to wedge another celebrity cameo into the story.
Trejo oozes grindhouse cool, but the movie itself commits an exploitation film sin—it’s dull. Scenes lumber along, blandly bereft of wit. Worse, the kitsch value that made “Grindhouse” and the first “Machete” movie so much fun is almost completely absent.
The movie begins with a grainy fake trailer for “Machete Kills Again… In Space,” the proposed third part of the saga. It’s a campy throwback to a simpler time and it’s a bit of fun. But at 2 minutes it also hammers home the point that a little Machete goes a long way.