Machete Kills review

At last, Machete Kills, the not-at-all-eagerly awaited sequel to the disappointing movie, Machete, no one really asked for or thought was that good based on the smirksome spoof trailer that was one of the best things about Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s ill-starred Grindhouse collaboration.

Named after the sleazy cinemas around New York’s 42nd Street and San Francisco’s Tenderloin that mainly showed exploitation movies in former strip joints and burlesque theatres (bump’n’grind), grindhouse films traditionally tended to be nasty, violent, sexually explicit movies made on the cheap which often gained notoriety and cult followings. Then along came video and buried the grindhouse everywhere but in the shriveled hearts and tiny minds of fanboys and hipster twats, their annointed high priests Messrs Tarantino and Rodriguez who’ve both disappeared down creative cul-de-sacs attempting to resurrect the dubious charms of the grindhouse in all its shoddy, shonky glory.

Rodriguez’s latest homage to the crappy films of his youth is Machete Kills which sees Trejo, ex-con and America’s hardest pensioner, returns as Mexican knife fetishist and vigilante Machete, a man so hard he talks about himself in the third person and even being lynched by a racist sheriff merely inspires a steely stare. Recruited for a special mission by playboy President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen masquerading under his real name, Carlos Estevez) and aided by the beautiful Miss San Antonio (Heard), Machete must locate and assassinate psychotic revolutionary Mendez (Bichir) who’s intent on launching a deadly missile at Washington.  However Machete comes to suspect the true villain is billionaire arms dealer and precognitive Voz (Gibson) who’s bent on a Bond Villain-esque plan for world domination.

Machete Lulls might have been a better title than Machete Kills as after about half an hour the joke starts to wear really thin and what was mildly amusing and cheesy to begin with becomes an increasingly numbing experience. Like everything else Rodriguez has done, cinematic niceties like plot and characterisation are of secondary importance to his freewheeling amateurish style and deliberately shoddy visuals designed to ape the look of '70s exploitation flicks, giving free reign to his frankly creepy brand of hipster misogyny as all the women are fetishised whores or ass-kicking illegal immigrants, all armed to the teeth with machine guns while beautiful Hollywood actresses are shot in the face and thrown from helicopters in order to motivate the hero. It’s not a camera Rodriguez needs, it’s a therapist, Ritalin and hug from his mommy.

The plot makes little sense, seems to be an Hispanic take on Moonraker, and the action scenes are repetitive, unexciting and so gratuitously, splattery violent it’s amazing the film got a 15 certificate. Trejo brings the same level of commitment to the role as he does to the fajita commercial he’s currently appearing in and there’s little here to enjoy with the possible exception of master of disguise hit man El Chameleon, a joke so good any explanation serves as spoiler.

Perhaps the best thing about Machete Kills though is its supporting cast, who seem to be having a whale of a time. Sheen plays upon his own checkered past as a president who pounds tequila and babes in the Oval Office while Goggins, Antonio Banderas, Forest Whittaker and Lady Gaga (yup, Lady Gaga) all shine in supporting roles and Gibson goes back to doing hat he does best – playing a swivel-eyed loon on film rather than real life.

Over-long, over-loud and overly violent, if you like to watch scantily clad, pneumatic Latinas firing automatic weapons – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t ? – your inner 12-year-old boy will probably find Machete Kills mildly diverting. 

Machete Kills at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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