Action Film Review

Ten Minute Film (School) Review: Machete Kills

October 11, 2013Ben Mk


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Schlock till you drop

Machete Kills certainly has no shortage of outlandish characters, but there's one in particular who brings to mind director Robert Rodriguez's characteristics as a filmmaker. The character in question has multiple personalities, becoming a ruthless psychopath one minute and a patriotic freedom fighter the next. As they say in the film, "You never know which one you're going to get." Likewise, when it comes to his movies, Rodriguez is of two minds: There's the (relatively) serious director that brought us Desperado and Sin City; and then there's the director responsible for more cartoonish fare like the Spy Kids series and The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl. The two sides have crossed paths before (in From Dusk Till Dawn and Planet Terror), but Machete Kills takes things to a whole new level.

Like all of the Grindhouse films, Machete Kills kicks off with a fake trailer that riffs on movies like Leprechaun 4 and Jason X. Suprisingly, this faux coming attraction bears more relevance to the plot than you'd imagine (just wait and see), which has to do with Machete being recruited by the President of the United States to stop a madman from launching an armed rocket at Washington, D.C. To accomplish his mission, he'll have to face off against an assortment of maniacal opponents, including a master (of disguise) assassin, a Madam with a mean streak and a tycoon with a God complex; but he'll also have help from a few old friends (and enemies). The cast is a veritable who's who of Rodriguez's regulars, including Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas, (an all grown-up) Alexa Vega and (of course) Danny Trejo. Newcomers for this go-round include Carlos Estevez (a.k.a. Charlie Sheen), Sophia Vergara, Amber Heard, Lady Gaga and Mel Gibson. Every actor in the cast seems intent on one-upping the others in chewing the scenery, which is perfect for the tone of the film.

Compared to this film, the original Machete feels downright serious in tone. Whereas that one was an homage to '70s grindhouse films, this one feels more akin to straight-to-video schlock from the late '80s / early '90s. Machete Kills is much lighter than its predecessor, precisely because it's so completely off-the-wall. It's impossible to take anything that happens in the film seriously -- even the violence -- because Rodriguez pushes the levels of insanity beyond their limits. Anything with a spinning blade becomes just another method for dispatching enemies; there's an evil clone army, luchador-mask-wearing thugs, and even a laser pistol that can turn people inside out (literally).

Rodriguez also serves up a double scoop of pop culture references, with callbacks to From Dusk Till Dawn and references to other films like Austin Powers, Dr. Strangelove, Mad Max and Star Wars -- especially Star Wars. It's clear than Rodriguez is a fanboy at heart, to the point where Machete Kills sometimes feels like it was co-directed by Kevin Smith. Not since Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back have there been this many Star Wars in-jokes on-screen, but that ain't a bad thing. Throughout all the madness, the plot remains surprisingly coherent, although it does get somewhat convoluted with the endless chain of twists and double crosses. None of this really matters, though, because once the film kicks into high gear you'll be having too much fun to care.


The Bottom Line

Machete Kills is a balls-to-the-wall celebration of the ludicrousness of B-movies, executed with a vigor that only Robert Rodriguez can pull off. If you're looking for a realistic action pic, look elsewhere. But if you're looking for a film as self-aware of its ridiculousness as it is unafraid to throw logic completely out the window -- all in the name of a good time -- then I defy you not to like this film. [★★★½]






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