VOD film review: Machete Kills
James R | On 19, Feb 2014
Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Danny Trejo, Amber Heard, Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Sofia Vergara, Michelle Rodriguez
Watch Machete Kills online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / TalkTalk TV / Sky Store
Machete began as a spoof trailer for a non-existent film that played in front of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s intentionally bad 80s tribute Grindhouse. Then, it became an actual film based on a spoof trailer that played in front of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s intentionally bad 80s tribute Grindhouse. Now, we have Machete Kills, a sequel to an actual film based on a spoof trailer that played in front of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s intentionally bad 80s tribute Grindhouse. What that says about the state of human civilisation is best left for another day. What that says about Robert Rodriguez, on the other hand, is very clear.
Picking up where Machete left off, the plot – a term used in the loosest sense possible – sees Danny Trejo’s knife-wielding legend hired by the US President (a deadpan Charlie Sheen) to take out a Mexican bad guy (Demian Bichir in wacky mode). Along the way, he comes across a host of colourful characters, from Michelle Rodriguez’s taco-selling freedom fighter to Sofia Vergara’s brothel boss with boobs that, naturally, contain machine guns.
It’s a gloriously over-the-top set up and you can tell everyone’s having fun: Amber Heard as Machete’s undercover contact, Miss San Antonio, prompts a pretty decent 3-D gag, while even Lady Gaga’s much-touted cameo is smartly done as The Chameleon, a shape-shifting assassin who changes appearance after every kill. Danny Trejo, meanwhile, is typically gruff as the monosyllabic lead, tossing henchmen’s intestines into helicopter rotors and flipping boats on their fronts with macho nonchalance.
The problem is that the pseudo-trash shtick soon wears thin, despite its parade of increasingly outlandish deaths. With no real story or direction, even as an ironically shallow piece of entertainment, Machete Kills becomes boring. Unless you really like people repeating variations on the “Machete don’t text” line from the first film. For Rodriguez, that’s evidently not an issue – and that’s exactly the problem. Ever since the excellent El Mariachi, he’s almost made the same film several times, to decreasing levels of success. Spy Kids and Sky Kids 2 proved he could offer that brand of tongue-in-cheek action with clever characters and humour that doesn’t involve gun-toting tits. With Machete Kills, he proves that he’s possibly stuck in a rut.
The barmy final act, though, brings a fresh wave of silliness – one visual Star Wars joke is laugh-out-loud funny. The climax ends as Machete began: with another spoof trailer. It’s an amusing idea, but one that works best in under two minutes, not a feature stretched to two hours. You suspect, though, that the third entry in this dumb franchise is very likely.
A sequel to a sequel to a film based on a spoof trailer? Where does satire end and stupidity begin? For now, Machete Kills makes one thing clear: Rodriguez loves making these films. And while that enthusiasm’s infectious, soon, they’re going to stop being enjoyably bad and start being just, well, bad. Who knows? It may have happened already.
Machete Kills is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.