There's a drug cartel boss with a missile pointed at Washington, D.C. and the trigger is attached to his heart. That's Oscar-nominee Demian Bichir, by the way, because in this parallel world your past glory or insane failure is irrelevant; you're a meat puppet in Robert Rodriguez's midnight grindhouse double feature (one where the first movie is, naturally, the much-better Machete) and your career achievement reel just got ridiculouser. That's why Charlie Sheen (billed here as his given name, Carlos Estevez) plays the President and Mel Gibson steps one yard to the right of The Beaver and takes on the role of a lunatic science-cult leader. Beloved sitcom star Sofia Vergara is a cannibal hooker with machine gun breasts. Nothing matters.
Seriously nothing. Rodriguez, usually an unsubtle but energetic filmmaker whose best movies are big dumb gut-punches of silly mayhem, has lost a lot of horsepower and possibly the key to his editing room. What could have been 80 minutes of gory, stupid, slyly subversive schlock about what happens when you “mess with the wrong Mexican,” the very thing we were all promised by the original manifestation of this murderous character in the fake Grindhouse trailer that birthed him, is now nearly two hours of cool cameo appearances – Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding Jr, Antonio Banderas and Walton Goggins all play a face-mask-peeling villain named Chameleon -- and repetitive decapitation gags.
Danny Trejo is still reliably monosyllabic, menacing and refreshingly, awesomely fugly, the coolest leading man/action hero Bad Cinema could ask for. He lops off heads and cleaves entire bodies with his signature weapon before using the blade to turn himself into a proper conduit for electrocuting a bad guy. He puts on a tuxedo and glasses in a uselessly Clark Kent-ish disguise as a waiter. He grabs hold of a rocket ship destined to blast into space. He does everything he's supposed to do and there’s no alternative to rooting for him. But the film surrounding him is dull where it should be demented and reluctant when it should be raw.
It even damns itself with its own classy looks, bookended by trailer clips from a future sequel titled Machete Kills Again… In Space. Those clips are scratchy, grainy and cheap-looking, like they’ve been run through the projector too many times and then used as a doormat. By contrast, jarringly and inexplicably, Machete Killsis a bright, clean, recently Windexed stainless steel refrigerator, cold and boxy, full of bland digital treats.
So sure, put this badass in space next time, Robert Rodriguez, make it a trilogy if you need to. Just please remember to chop it up, cook it and serve it hot. Don't leave the man stranded.