Film

'Machete Kills' is 'Spy Kids' Meets 'Moonraker'... with Blood

Machete Cortez is back... and so over-the-top, he literally floats away.


Machete Kills

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Sofia Vergara, Mel Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, William Sadler, Charlie Sheen, Cuba Gooding Jr., Demian Bichir, Tom Savini, Antonio Banderas, Walton Goggins
Length: 108 minutes
Studio: Troublemaker Studios
Year: 2013
Distributor: Universal Studios
MPAA Rating: R
UK Release date: 2014-02-17
US Release date: 2014-01-21

Machete, as a film (as opposed to the series of similar characters that Danny Trejo has played in a multitude of Robert Rodriguez films) started out as something of a joke. As one of many “fake trailers” included with the tongue-in-cheek double feature Grindhouse, Machete was a decidedly “grindhouse” style idea for a movie that would, quite obviously, never really get made. The “fake” trailer was popular enough to prompt director Rodriguez to make the film after all and include it as a DVD extra on a future release of Grindhouse. That is until 20th Century Fox brought the unlikely film to the big screen.

Even more surprisingly, Machete (2010), the unlikely-to-be-made film was successful enough to warrant a sequel (this time at Universal Studios). Sadly, while Machete lost some of its focus and charm by eschewing the over-the-top grindhouse style in favor of a somewhat heavy-handed “message” film, Machete Kills goes in almost the complete opposite direction. Although Machete Kills starts out as a down-to-earth film featuring the titular (anti-)hero Machete Cortez (Trejo) fighting the bad guys, this sequel soon devolves into something in between a James Bond spoof and a more violent installment in the Spy Kids franchise.

Machete is soon pressed by the President of the United States (played by Charlie Sheen, credited to his birth name of “Carlos Estevez”) into fighting an international plot surrounding a terrorist bent on firing a nuclear missile at the USA. With a kill-switch attached to his body, anything Machete does to take Mendez out will result in the launch of the missile.

On the surface, this plot feels a lot like Machete has swung to the next level, going from Federale and Vigilante to international secret agent. However, the film soon ups the silliness quotient to the Nth degree and mixing in just about every random plot point that Rodriguez could think of, from wild car chases to clone battles to supervillain swordfights to the image of Machete actually riding a missile into space (on the outside). It’s all in a bid to reach the billionaire industrialist Voz (played by Mel Gibson – how the mighty have fallen), the only man who can disengage the kill switch and save the world, because he invented it.

That “outer space” part is hardly a spoiler, considering that Machete Kills is preceded by another dirty and grainy probably-not-fake trailer for a third film called Machete Kills Again... In Space, set to pick up right where this film left off. As humorous as that title and the trailer itself is, it isn’t a far cry from what we see in Machete Kills, what with the title character’s James Bond-esque gadgets (with a Moonraker-esque subplot) and surreally over-the-top escapades. The shadow of Spy Kids (in which Danny Trejo also played a character named “Machete”) is written all over this film, particularly in the last half.

The appearances by Gibson and Sheen are part and parcel of Rodriguez’ attempt to pack virtually every frame in this movie with recognizable faces. To this end, the character of El Camaleón lives up to its name, being played by no less than four actors in Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas. Add these cameos to those of William Saddler, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodrigues, Tom Savini and Jessica Alba and film buffs may start looking for Kevin Bacon (who does not appear).

To be fair, the first Machete was not a perfect movie, nor was it completely played straight either. Rodriguez pumps Machete Kills full of so many ideas, that the entire affair threatens to blow up like the nuclear missile at its core. That said, Machete Kills can still be an extremely fun movie to watch, especially when the grindhouse sensibilities of the film lulls the audience into the peace of not asking questions and just having fun. After all, while Rodriguez was not intending to make a “bad movie” he was intending to make a “B-Movie”, much as he did with Planet Terror in 2007 and Machete in 2010.

That said, as fun as Machete Kills truly can be, there are points in which even the most forgiving film fan will note that sometimes intentionally making a B-Movie does, in fact, result in some objectively bad elements. Luckily, Machete Kills is really never boring and fits well into the “Popcorn Action” genre of film.

Those same fans will enjoy the Blu-ray’s making-of documentary and the deleted and extended scenes which push the film into an even more unbelievable area. Even with these fun special features, one has to note that the extras are relatively light for a Blu-Ray package, especially considering the fact that this is a Robert Rodriguez film. With the entirety of Machete once intended to be a DVD Extra in itself, many might expect a few more special features from the unlikely sequel to that unlikely film.

That expectation would, of course, remain in the eye of the beholder, considering the fact that as fun as Machete Kills can be, it is far too over-the-top for even its own plot to keep up with. While it is true that this 2013 sequel lives up to its title (if not the promise of its predecessor), the adage of “enough is enough” may eventually come to mind. True fans, however, could scarcely be more pleased… for the exact same reasons.

5

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image