The fact that Machete Kills even exists is about as strange as the film itself, but just about. What many don’t realize is that Danny Trejo has been playing the eponymous character for over a decade now, with the first, original incarnation of Machete appearing all the way back in 2001 with Robert Rodriguez’s kid classic, Spy Kids. Since then the character made appearances in both of the Spy Kids sequels before finally breaking out as a main character of a fake trailer way back in the 2007 Rodriguez and Tarantino B-movie collaboration Grindhouse. Arguably the best part of the three plus hour Grindhouse, these intermittent fake trailers bookended the two full-length films and were done by a variety of high profile directors such as Edgar Wright and Eli Roth. Touted as the best of the fake trailers (I prefer Thanksgiving but that’s just me), Machete quickly caught on thanks to his inventive, over-the-top kills and growling demeanor, so much so that Rodriguez and Trejo quickly got working on a full-length feature film based off the trailer.
Released in 2010, Machete unfortunately proved that what’s hilarious in a 2-3 minute trailer won’t necessarily translate to an hour and forty minute feature. While it had its moments and was even damn funny at times, as a whole Machete felt completely unnecessary and by the end it felt like nothing more than a one-trick-pony. Even though the film was far from a box-office hit, it did well enough between theatres and home markets to warrant a sequel, this year’s Machete Kills. While my hopes were never high, I went into the film hoping that Rodriguez would expand on the original joke and take this great character in a new, fun direction. Unfortunately these hopes were never met as Rodriguez takes the entire film in the complete opposite direction, settling for the same, tired jokes, weirdness for weirdness sake, and overstuffing the film with so much stunt casting that the film really shouldn’t be called Machete.
While the initial Machete film was a wild, strange trip filled with over-the-top ultraviolence, it always felt grounded enough in the real world for the exaggerated kills to warrant a chuckle at the very least. Right off the bat Machete Kills goes so off the rails batshit crazy that it quickly becomes mind-numbing, loosing any sort of allure by 20-30 minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for over-the-top action; when utilized stylishly and patiently, ultraviolence can be some of the most entertaining and cathartic parts of any movie, acting upon some of your craziest, ridiculous desires. However, when you have a film made up of nothing but ridiculous violence after ridiculous violence it gets old fast. It also doesn’t help that Rodriguez is happy to rehash some of the more creative kills from the original, trying to one-up them in insane, intricate ways but they never really succeed. Machete ripping out a dude’s intestines was certainly a highlight of the first film, but seeing him do it again before throwing the guy into a helicopter propeller, while undoubtedly cool, just doesn’t have the same impact the second time around. Worst of all though is the fact that the movie veers into old, cheesy Sci-Fi material near the end, where any entertainment value from action and violence quickly dissolves thanks to the introduction of Sci-Fi weaponry like a gun that turns people inside out.
Speaking of Sci-Fi, the movie opens with another fake trailer for the next Machete film, this time titled Machete Kills Again…In Space. While completely off the walls crazy, the trailer is by far the best part of the experience, filled with hilarious jokes and inventive references to famous science fiction. However, as the film progresses, you begin to realize that the trailer isn’t fake at all, with the entire sequel building up to this proposed third entry, so much so that (SPOILERS) the film ends with Machete accepting a mission in space (END SPOILERS). The fact that the entire movie is just one extended build up to another unnecessary joke retroactively hurts the film. The fact that Rodriguez is willing to take this concept so far is extremely commendable but can’t he realize that the joke stopped being funny years ago?
Worst of all is that Rodriguez seems to have realized this fact mid-production as Machete Kills is much less about Machete than about fitting in as many unnecessary, stunt cameos as possible. Between Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Michelle Rodriguez, Antonio Banderas, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Mel Gibson, Demian Bechir, Vanessa Hudgens, and even Lady Gaga, this film is packed to the brim with famous and talented people, all of who are completely wasted. Save for Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara, who becomes more and more attractive with every sadistic action, every actor is wasted on either a quick two-second cameo or a crazy, over-the-top role they only took to collect the paycheck. Not to mention that most weren’t even able to make it to the set, so most of the cameos are filmed on green-screen so obvious that it’s distracting.
While people, myself included, can make a case for why the original Machete was unnecessary, at the end of the day the film is perfectly fine as pure entertainment. It’s unfortunate then that the sequel doesn’t even have the entertainment factor going for it. Nothing about it is necessarily awful or offensive, it’s just that the joke stopped being funny a while ago, especially when the first film serves as a much better execution of pretty much the exact same joke. Who knows if Machete Kills Again…In Space will ever actually come to fruition but I for one hope the train stops at Machete Kills.
Review by James Hausman