Machete Kills is exactly the kind of movie Machete Kills wants to be. There is a character who dies 18 different times throughout the film. Mel Gibson plays a lunatic future-telling supervillain who comes complete with his own diabolical theme music. Charlie Sheen (as Carlos Estevez) practically plays himself as a gun-lovin', foul-mouthed womanizing U.S. president named... well, let's not spoil that surprise. Modern Family's Sofia Vergara plays a man-hatin' Mexican madam who screams, whips and fires a ridiculous amount of ammo from guns strapped to her private parts. And we haven't even spoken about the assassin called the Chameleon, who throughout the film is played by several different actors, including Lady Gaga, who hams it up for the camera big time.
That's Machete Kills in a nutshell -- a violently goofy grindhouse film that has a bit more fun than its predecessor Machete, but definitely lacks in the brains department. It's not as clever as it could be, or as nasty as it wants to be, but it definitely features this year's most creative use of an ensemble cast. Watching Machete Kills is sort of like watching that drunk friend whose weird, outrageous antics are just the right amount of entertainment for your three-beer buzz.
In terms of the Machete franchise, Machete Kills is its Empire Strikes Back (in some scenes, literally). As the film opens with a fake trailler for Machete Kills Again... In Space, it doesn't take long to figure out that Machete Kills is building towards its space-set sequel, which looks like a cheesy late-'70s Star Wars spoof, with machete lightsabers and an evil mask-wearing villain (touted as being played by Leonardo DiCaprio, pending his casting) who looks like a cross between Cobra Commander and Skeletor.
But back to Machete Kills, and its plot (if you need it): Danny Trejo returns as the former Mexican Federale turned badass vigilante who's recruited by the U.S. president (Estevez) to take out an arms dealer hell-bent on launching a missile to blow up Washington. Machete's mission takes him deep inside Mexico to a fortress owned by a man with multiple personalities (fittingly called Mendez the Madman, played by Demian Bichir) who's connected this missile to his heart. If he dies, the missile launches, thus forcing Machete to kidnap him and bring him back to the United States in search of someone who can disarm the contraption.
Naturally a bounty is put on their heads, and pretty soon everyone is looking to take these two out. Swarms of bad guys with automatic weapons spew bullets in scene after scene, as director Robert Rodriguez does his best to slip in some fun, creative kills (most involving a helicopter). Not only are the cartels on their tail, but also Sofia Vergara's madam (and her three gun-toting prostitutes), who wants revenge on Machete after his presence gets one of her girls killed. Tack on the aforementioned assassin called the Chameleon, and a sexy secret agent (Amber Heard) posing as a beauty pageant contestant who's playing both sides, and you have a film chock-full of colorful characters who could use some more definition if they were in another movie.
However, they're in Machete Kills, and Machete Kills doesn't want them to be anything more than a concept, a character poster. The film's biggest fault is that it cares too much about its style than it does anything else, but that's what it wants to be. Trejo's Machete never evolves into anything more than an indestructible killing machine full of one-liners like "Machete don't tweet," and Michelle Rodriguez shows up to do her typical tough-chick-with-an-eyepatch shtick, but because the film never takes itself seriously, we don't either.
Rodriguez' Machete movies are goofy and absurd, and even if you wish you got more out of them, it's hard not to be thankful for them. These days our action movies are too serious and our spoof movies are too lame. Machete Kills does a decent job at balancing the two and serving up an experience that's fresh, funny and full of bonkers performances. You may not love it, but you'll walk out wanting to watch the hell out of the next sequel... in space!
Machete Kills had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest, and will arrive in theaters on October 11. You can check out more of our Fantastic Fest coverage right here.
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