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Machete Kills (2013)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Carlos Estevez, Lady Gaga

Written By: Kyle Ward, Robert Rodriguez (story), Marcel Rodriguez (story) Directed By: Robert Rodriguez

The Short Version

Absurd.  Ridiculous.  Over the top.  Tasteless.  What?  You were expecting something else?

Machete Kills barely even pretends to make sense.  It’s just about having fun!

For a while, it tries too hard, but then it becomes a Mexican James Bond movie, which makes it all okay.

Specifically, it’s the first two acts of Moonraker.

Face it: you’re watching Machete Kills for a violent laugh.  Result: you win!

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


The combination is odd, but it’s delicious anyway.

Pairs Well With...


In a word: “duh.”

“It’s a Mexican standoff!”

It should go without saying that Machete Kills is preposterous, tasteless, and absurdly violent.  For genre fans, of course, these don’t qualify as bad things.  Indeed, they’re precisely why most of us want to go see a movie like this in the first place.  And so, if you’re a fan of bloody, violent, ridiculous action flicks that don’t require too many critical thinking skills to enjoy: congratulations!  You win!  You’ll have lots of fun with Machete Kills.  I know I did.

On the flip side, if you can’t suspend your politics or your grip on civilized behavior for a couple of hours (or if you’re too cemented down by them to read between some lines), you shouldn’t go anywhere near this flick.  Or most action movies, for that matter.

All right; so much for the observations of Captain Obvious.  Let’s take it a few steps deeper now, shall we?

Machete Kills opens up with a tease that is also a fond wish: a faux trailer for the hoped-for-but-as-yet-unannounced/nonexistent follow-up to this flick: Machete Kills Again… In Space.  It’s an interesting tactic that serves two purposes.  First, it’s just plain fun, and it’s going to make the audience smile.  Second, it gives a reasonably clear expectation of the neighborhood in which the movie at hand – Machete Kills – has to end.  This may seem like a silly thing to do for the strictly plot-oriented members of the audience, but I call it brilliant, especially in hindsight.  Why?  Because everything that follows is so convoluted and preposterous that it would be very easy to wonder if Robert Rodriguez and company had any idea what the hell the story was supposed to be if not for the concrete promise of the trailer at the beginning.

It’s twisted logic, but considering that it’s the only kind of logic available here, you’ve got to take what you can get.

The original Machete may have been over the top in a lot of ways, but it still managed to stay relatively grounded when it came to presenting a coherent plot forwarded along by a cadre of characters whose presence and roles made a reasonable amount of sense.  Machete Kills exists with no such obligations.  After a few moments of fairly logical (though still wonderfully over the top) establishing mayhem, the script plunges headlong into blood-soaked twilight zone wherein one thing does not necessarily follow another unless one has been hitting the tequila with extreme gusto.  Instead, half the film comes across as Robert Rodriguez and company randomly throwing the wackiest stuff they could come up with at the screen to see what might stick, with results that hit and miss in roughly equal measure and which very much reek of “trying too hard.”  Forget being grounded in any sort of reality; this is a flick that allows Walt Goggins, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas to play the exact same character (who is able to change appearance eat will just by tearing off a rubber mask).  It’s fun, mostly, but it’s not really a story.  It’s bloody skit comedy strung together by a vague theory of a plot that can only be said to exist as a matter of faith and opinion.  Yeah, I smiled and enjoyed myself whenever Sofia Vergara wasn’t whipping out yet another tired old bullet-spewing reproductive organ (seriously, guys, it’s a stupid joke), but given the fact that I consider the movie that came before to be one of the great masterpieces of over the top balls-to-the-walls action, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed for a while. 

Then, suddenly, Moonraker!  At which point, everything (with the exception of Desdemona, who is still annoying) becomes okay, because the best way to make Preposterous work is to take it all the way the to the end zone, and that’s exactly what Rodriguez and company do when they confirm Machete Kills as a Mexican James Bond (Iago Bond?) flick featuring Mel Gibson as Hugo Drax.  With a Star Wars landspeeder.  And a carbon freezing chamber.  Can I get a “Hell, Yeah!” from the audience?

I’ll let you in on a little secret, folks.  A movie doesn’t have to have a great plot to have a point, and the point of this one is to have fun while screaming out a (digital) blood-soaked love poem to cheesy action flicks of old.  Despite my lamentations above, I do get it, and you’re damn right I enjoyed it.

Starting with the patented Robert Rodriguez Celebrity Rehab Program, I enjoyed Charlie Sheen – excuse me, Carlos Estevez – sending up both himself and his dad while playing the President of the United States.  He’s right: winning really is just the beginning.

Along the same vein, I enjoyed Mel Gibson in the villain’s role, and what’s more, I enjoyed being able to enjoy Mel Gibson in the villain’s role.  Like just about everyone else in this cast, Gibson is obviously having a ball here, and without any baggage to weigh him down, he gets to settle into the whacko’s role with an assurance I haven’t seen from him since the good old days of Martin Riggs.  Bravo.

Not just Martin Riggs, either; I enjoyed seeing Gibson get behind the wheel of an apocalyptic-looking armored car, even if just for a moment.  Like a Road Warrior.  And yes, that’s a Klingon weapon he picks up later on.  Qa’pla!

I enjoyed Demian Bichir doing his own whacko thing as our “pre-villain,” Mendez.  The multiple personality thing is always a bit dicey, but Bichir makes it works to outstanding effect.

I enjoyed the throwback style of filmmaking that Rodriguez does so well, with the highlight here being “put on your 3D glasses.”  (Though damn, I wouldn’t have minded seeing the next few frames in the clear.)

I enjoyed Lady Gaga’s feature film debut as a badass hitman.  Yes, I said hitman.  Ra-ra-ra-ma-ma.

An atypical thing for me: I enjoyed the digitally enhanced blood.  Why, when I normally prefer just the stuff that pours out of a bucket, and when it would seem to be totally out of whack with the retro style?  Because it emphasizes the comic unreality of it all, serving as deliberate punctuation instead of as just a cheap way of doing things.  It helps to maintain the perfect balance that keeps the ridiculously over the top brutality fun.

As I would with a slasher flick, I enjoyed the creativity of the violence and the kills.  We expect Machete to use his machete, and he does to great effect, and we expect major gunplay, but the ray gun that turns people inside out is some unexpected fun that keeps things interesting.  And the rotor carousel of death: quite impressive.

And of course, I enjoyed Danny Trejo’s return as Machete.  He understands that his role here is plug and play, and that anything resembling character development is a relic of the previous movie, and he’s happy to roll with it.  Look at his face and you’ll see that he’s thinking “you have got to be kidding” just as often as you are, but that’s part of the fun.

I enjoyed all of these things and many more that I’ll leave unmentioned so that you may have the pleasure of discovering them yourself, and I absolutely recommend that you do take the time to discover them for yourself.  Machete Kills is just too much fun to miss.

Bottom line, Machete Kills isn’t perfect and it can seem a little sketchy at times, but the end result is an absolute blast.  Ridiculously violent, utterly preposterous, and fabulously self aware, Machete Kills is definitely worth the time for any old school action fan with a sense of humor.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2013

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

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