Fantastic Fest 2013: Robert Rodriguez's 'Machete Kills' is Old & Tired
by Jeremy Kirk
September 20, 2013
Machete Kills. "That's what he does," says Charlie Sheen as the President in Robert Rodriguez's violent follow-up to his 2010 Grindhouse hit. Machete was a blast of ridiculous fun, pushed across the entertaining finish line by Danny Trejo's awesome stares and gutters. But there can be too much of a good thing, and so we have Machete Kills. The sequel is nowhere near as much fun, almost limping along by the Looney Tunes antics Rodriguez has turned to this time. Machete seems almost subtle by comparison, yet whatever creativity this "now" franchise once had has vanished. Trejo's stares even seem tired at this point.
Rodriguez quickly throws us back into the world of Machete Cortez, former Federale-turned-mercenary who nows finds himself helping the US Government. The President (Sheen, but credited here as "Introducing Carlos Estevez". Genius) tasks Machete with hunting down a ruthless madman (Demian Bichir, who is on fire in every scene here). Machete's new target threatens to launch a missile against the US, and the baddest Mexican on the planet heads South of the border to take him out.
The energy in what fun 2010's Machete had dissipated before the credits to that film rolled. The same can't be said for Machete Kills, which has an awkward lack of energy from the opening shoot-out. There was really only one direction for the director to go for this sequel: even further over the top. This puts the action into cartoonish territory to the point that when Machete rides around on a Helicopter blade, it's not insane. Rodriguez's decision to create muzzle fire and gunshots via CGI makes the ordeal even flimsier.
Where Rodriguez's film works is somewhere around the middle when the story switches from bloody road movie through Mexico to an odd spoof on James Bond spy actioners. When Mel Gibson shows up as Luther Voz, a weapons dealer hell-bent on causing chaos around the planet, you're looking for someone wearing a tux and ordering Vodka Martini. When that same character appears late in the film donning a pale blue cape, you're looking for that other someone to be Roger Moore. The Moonraker references here are cute. The Star Wars references are just awful.
The splotches of entertainment Machete Kills drops on us is nothing compared to the long, tedious stretches of Rodriguez's attempt at a laugh-riot. The insane amount of cameos seem almost self-indulgent, particularly when you have actors like Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, and Sofia Vergara filling characters who have very little development and nothing satisfying in their payoff. As exciting as Bichir is, he's gone far too soon, and Gibson's maniacal laughter wears its welcome out quickly.
As the trailer for Machete Kills Again...In Space tells us in this film's opening moments, neither Rodriguez nor Trejo are done with this blade-wielding badass. The sky, and evidently even further than that, is the limit for Machete, and the adventures appear to be getting crazier and crazier. Let's just hope the next outing has a little more creativity and a whole lot more energy.
Jeremy's Fantastic Fest Rating: 4.5 out of 10
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