Director: Robert Rodriguez
Screenwriter: Kyle Ward
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen/Carlos Estevez, Sophia Vergara, Michelle Rodriguez, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Vanessa Hudgens
Running time: 107 minutes
Machete Cortez (Trejo) is back with a vengeance when he’s recruited by POTUS (Sheen/Estevez) to track down and stop a Mexican super-criminal intent on destroying the US. However, along the way he finds himself chasing an altogether different bad guy in the form of insidious self-acclaimed psychic Voz (Gibson).
You really have to leave all sense and logic at the door to begin approaching a film like Machete Kills. Thanks to its predecessor, the bonkers (but kind of disappointing) Machete back in 2010, we already know pretty much the area we’re in for Rodriguez’s sequel, but how do you really comment something that is so knowingly bad? How do you comment on acting when it’s supposed to be so over the top and hammy? How do you comment on the script and plot when it’s supposed to be so stupid and contrived and ridiculous? How do you comment on any of this when it’s genuinely, with every possible intent, supposed to be so terrible?
The simple answer is, you don’t. I went along with Machete Kills right from the wonderfully silly opening trailer for Machete Kills Again…In Space (which should, fingers crossed, be the third installment), and just let it entertain me from there on out. No prejudice, no preconceptions. For a film that boasts Carlos Estevez (aka Charlie Sheen) as the President and offs about a hundred people in the first five minutes, whereafter practically every scene ends in a massive, over the top shootout or sword fight, you can’t really be angry that nothing makes sense. Rodriguez is patently a huge fan of exploitation B-movies (the reason for his Grindhouse collaboration with Tarantino) and he’s clearly enjoying himself here; enjoying the fact that he can do whatever he wants and not get into trouble for it. He’s reveling in its stupidity, and I think that sense of boisterousness and frivolity permeates through the screen and into the audience.
The cast, too, is having a great time. Just by glancing up a few paragraphs you can see how many great names it boasts – some in small cameos, others in pivotal roles (if a role in this film can indeed be called pivotal). Walton Goggins, on-screen for merely two minutes in a Tarantino in Desperado-esque sequence, is great, and it’s wonderful to see Cuba Gooding Jr. on the big screen. He’s dropped too far off the radar in recent years, but Machete Kills being the film to bring him back is perhaps a dubious prospect. I think even Bruce Campbell shows up in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.
Yet, as far as the so-bad-it’s-good stuff goes, it does begin to wear a little thin around the fifty minute mark because it is just all the same. The same jokes, the same action, the same ridiculousness. It’s great, but there’s only so much of that we can take in one sitting. Mel Gibson showing up sparks things back into gear, at least for a time, but not quite enough to completely win us back.
You really can’t hate this film, I think you just have to go with it. You can decide not to enjoy it if you like, or by completely passing it by no-one will judge you, but you can’t hate it. It’s so purposeful in its ludicrousness and so blatantly aware of how utterly outrageous it is that it’s just not possible to critique it in any conventional way. Terribly great, brilliantly bad.