Film review: Cult status is what propels ‘Machete’ sequel

Film review: Cult status is what  propels ‘Machete’ sequel
Danny Trejo as Machete in “Machete Kills,” directed by Robert Rodriguez. Photo by Rico Torres

Entertaining but over the top to a fault, “Machete Kills” makes no lies about its nature as an exploitation B-movie. 

Ex-cop-turned-vigilante Machete (Danny Trejo) is recruited by the President of the United States (Carlos Estévez, a.k.a. Charlie Sheen) to foil a madman’s revolutionary plan to fire a missile aimed at the White House.

It soon becomes apparent to Machete that the real mastermind is a billionaire arms dealer/terrorist named Luther Voz (Mel Gibson), whose company has concocted a diabolical scheme to spread chaos throughout the planet.

Who would’ve thought the cult success of Robert Rodriguez’s 2010 action film “Machete” would spawn the first of two expected sequels? Well, he made it happen, and I can’t say that I’m surprised, given his love of exploitation B-movies.

As a result of this development, Rodriguez opted to make “Machete Kills” a lot bigger than its predecessor.

His bold decision offers many perks for hungry moviegoers, but doesn’t completely satisfy their cravings.

Only a director like Rodriguez knows how to make cheesy dialogue sound effortless, and in a film this cartoonish, tacky words are best served in huge quantities. The majority of conversations were laughably bad, but since “Machete Kills” is inherently shallow, I suppose this issue is more of a benefit than a detriment.

Plus, it’s important to have the number of corny sentences match the rising body count Trejo racks up as he slices and dices his way across the screen.

What makes the body count fascinating to watch, however, is the creativity behind the kills, and Trejo has the pleasure of experimenting with different ways of slaying enemies, especially after he acquires a Swiss Army knife-type machete and later, a high-tech one.

And, of course, the ladies are the real reason anyone would want to go see “Machete Kills,” and there’s plenty of eye candy armed to teeth.

You got the leather-clad Michelle Rodriguez, man-hating Sofía Vergara, statuesque and busty Amber Heard, and, for reasons beyond comprehension, Lady Gaga. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the notion of “bigger is better” has a side effect; while the nonstop action sequences never fail to elicit laughs, the narrative drags along as the film progresses.

Sure, there are stakes to overcome —Voz’s desire to spread international chaos, cartels shooting left and right — but somehow they hardly seem to incite the “That was awesome!” feeling.

When the focus shifts from one mastermind to another, the conflict fizzles out.

Come to think of it, I can’t think of any instance where there was any real conflict taking place.

Last but not least, I don’t think the science fiction element of the latter half of the film — which is meant to plant the seeds for the third “Machete” installment — was necessary to include in the proceedings.

If anything, the whole “Star Wars” getup becomes more distracting than fascinating, taking the film into another territory it may not be ready for yet.

If there were an award for “Best Insane Cast in a Film,” Rodriguez would surely win it. That being said, not all of his actors get the opportunity to kill and leave their mark on this plate of carne asada.

All Danny Trejo needs to do is kill and that’s what he excels at.

Michelle Rodriguez doesn’t have much importance here like she did in the first “Machete,” even though her tough attitude hasn’t changed much.

Sofía Vergara delights in putting men in their place with her balls to the wall craziness. Amber Heard oozes sexuality but is a deadly woman who means business when she picks up a gun.

Demián Bichir as one of the masterminds, has the funniest of corny lines and clearly enjoys embodying the two sides to Mendez’s personality.

Mel Gibson has presence, but he doesn’t get the opportunity to really cement his Bond villain charisma when it comes to fighting mano y mano.

Carlos Estévez, on the other hand, does a fantastic job of fighting for our nation as the President of the United States.

Admittedly, the second “Machete” film does kill most of the time, but its “bigger means better” mentality doesn’t always work out.

MPAA rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content.
Running time: 1 hour and 47 minutes
Playing: In general release

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