Monday, 25 November 2013

Machete Kills

Title: Machete Kills
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Released: 2013
Staring: Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr.
Plot: Following on from the events of the original film, Machete is put on the path of revenge when his girlfriend Sartana (Jessica Alba) is killed by a mysterious masked man while attempting to capture weapons dealers supplying the Mexican drug cartels. Now recruited by President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen, here appearing as Carlos Estevez) with the promise of citizenship, Machete is sent to eliminate Marcos Mendez (Demian Bichir) who is currently threatening to fire a nuclear missile at the White House.  Soon however Machete discovers that the mysterious masked man might also be linked to the plot aswell.

Review: For a film which started out as a joke trailer in the financial misfire (yet critically acclaimed) “Grindhouse”, Machete has turned into quite the trilogy while at the same time certainly doing no harm for Danny Trejo’s stock. Launching him from token bad guy to recognisable leading man as in the wake of the original “Machete” it seemed that everyone couldn’t get enough of the former bare knuckle boxing champion of San Quentin and young offender councillor. Needless to say it was only a matter of time before director Robert Rodriguez gave the world a follow up to his cult favourite.

While the original film might have been the tale of a badass seeking revenge after he is double crossed by his employers, this film decides to spin the franchise off in a new direction as Machete here takes on more of a “XXX” style spy role as he dashes for the border with Marcos, who has hardwired the nuke to his heart and eventually sets out to foil the Bond villain esq schemes of the “Star Wars” obsessed weapons manufacturer Luther Voz (Mel Gibson).  It’s a certainly an intresting change of pace and one which actually benefited the film, especially when the original always felt that it was being hampered by being built around its fake trailer and as such was just finding a way to link each of the trailers set pieces together.

This time taking sole ownership of the director’s chair having previously co-directed the original with his long term editor Ethan Maniquis, this time it is truly Rodriguez’s film and one which certainly finds him a playful mood once again, as he aims to maintain the Neo-Grindhouse aesthetic from the fake opening trailer for “Machete Kills Again… In Space” and classic feature presentation title card, through to even throwing in an old school 3D sequence (yes the old blue and green glasses style) to rival his breaking film scene in “Planet Terror”. Equally at the same time this also see’s him throwing plausibility out of the window as the franchise doesn’t so much jump the shark but the whole freaking aquarium! Needless to say this is a film which like its closest comparison “XXX” works best when you’re not questioning what you’re watching and just enjoy the ride. After all there are countless movies and franchises currently obsessed with realism so what’s wrong with alittle raw escapism which is what you get here.

Having established the Mexican James Bond vibe early on Rodriguez really works it in every conceivable way, with Machete getting to utilise a number of customised machete’s including a tri-bladed model which his beauty queen liason (Amber Heard) refers to as the swiss army knife of machete’s  while still managing to keep the character every bit as gritty as he was in the first film, with Trejo with his trademark tattoos and tanned leather features fully embodies this character even more so the second time around, as he makes even Machete’s habit of referring to himself in the third person sound cool. This Bond theme also continues to the main villain here as Voz is every bit the bond villain with his scheme sounding very familiar to that of Drax’s in “Moonraker”, but despite this similarity here we get to see Mel Gibson on truly bonkers form, as he embodies the role even when engaging in a machete / sword fight while wearing a cape! Thankfully Rodriguez is one of the few people in Hollywood able to separate Gibson’s troubled personal life from the actor as he is truly one of the big draws here and perhaps only rivalled by the multiple personality antic’s of Birchir’s Mexican revolutionary Mendez whose hyper personality makes him another fun character while never pushing it so far that it becomes irritating.

Much like the first film Rodriguez has assembled a great ensemble cast to flesh out this colourful world he continues to craft here and one which see’s “Modern Family” favourite Sofia Vergara cranks up her crazy to psychotic as brothel owner Madame Desdemona who not only has her own army of prostitute assassins (a nod to Blaxploitation favourite “Dolemite” ) aswell as a twin minigun bra she refers to as her “Double D’s”. Equally game is Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lady Gaga as the various faces of shape shifting assassin El Camaleón a role which not only sees Gooding Jr. giving his best performance in years, but also proving that Lady Gaga is more of an accomplished actor than first suspected, especially when I was left wanting to see more of her in this film and something which could be corrected in “Machete Kills Again…In Space” if the fake trailer is to be believed. True there are so which might argue that she has already had enough practice with the antics of her usual disco punk persona, but here she is in perfect form as she sneers her way through the film.

Upping the ante in every way possible from the first film, Rodriguez fully up the splatter as heads roll and helicopter blades especially are put to creative use on more than one occasion. The action scenes aswell are fully stepped up a number of fantastic set pieces including a “Mad Max” inspired car chase complete with George Miller style speeded up shots. Rodriguez though once again shows himself as a director with an eye for action, even if he might not be known as an action director, here he once more shows that he knows his way around a set piece and with his cousin Trejo he really does have the perfect grizzled action hero.

After the patchy “Machete” this film really steps up the fun of the first film, while correcting many of the mistakes made first time around, even if like the original it still suffers with a bloated third act. So with Sci-fi set to be the theme for the third and final part I can only imagine how Rodriguez plans on topping the madness of this film,  but if anything this film has certainly laid down a strong foundation, so leave your expectations at the door, just buy the ticket and enjoy the ride.


  1. Good review Elwood. A little too many subplots and characters to fully work, but still enough fun to warrant a watch. Especially if you were a fan of the first as it was.

  2. I agree I was really enjoying it up to his escape from Voz's base and then meeting up with the network, whose sole reason for being in this film is to assist with the finale shoot out. Still really hoping to see more Lady Gaga in the sequel aswell as Gibson who really reminds us how great he can be when he's having fun with a role.
    Honestly though I did prefer this still over the first one, which suffered from having to be built around the original fake trailer and generally came off patchy.


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