Jason Howard




Review by Jason Howard

Lead Entertainment Writer

If 2010’s Machete was too over-the-top and ridiculous for you, then might I suggest you avoid the sequel and catch a screening of (insert random children’s film) with the family this weekend instead?  The original had quite an amazing body count, but any random 15 minute extraction of Machete Kills will make that film look like (insert second random children’s film).  Whereas the first film was straight up late 70’s exploitation, the sequel finds itself propelled (keep reading to discover why this is a poorly executed pun) directly into the 80’s.  Much like friend and peer Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez is one of the few directors who knows how to properly do an homage.  The difference between the two – Tarantino sweats (and nails) the tiniest of details, but Rodriguez succeeds in capturing the overall feel.

Machete Kills
Directed by
Robert Rodriguez
Danny Trejo, Alexa Vega, Mel Gibson, Amber Heard
Release Date
11 October 2013
Jason’s Grade: A

After a fun sneak peek of the next sequel (Machete Kills Again… In Space), the plot (as if it matters too much) of Rodriguez’s latest Mexploitation opus kicks off with a Machete in mourning being recruited by the United States president (Charlie Sheen, playing off of his public persona) to save the world from a mad arms dealer, hell-bent on launching a batch of missiles and a fleet of space ships. In order to stop him, Machete must first embark on an almost reverse-Cowardly Lionesque mission across the U.S.-Mexico border.  Just go with it.

Fans of the original film are provided with quite a few references to what made that one so special – Mexican revolutionaries, memorably gory hospital scenes, rather useful intestines, crazy and inventive weaponry, twins, familiar music cues, and goofy green screen work.  A few of the recalls might go a little overboard (the variations on the “Machete don’t text” joke from the first flick are taken so far that they stop being funny, and then keep continuing until they are almost, but not quite, funny again).  Others don’t quite go far enough (like most movies, this one could use more Michelle Rodriguez).

Some of the most entertaining aspects are the many extended (and not so extended) cameos by Robert Rodriguez regulars, Hollywood’s elite, and even a few actors that we thought we were long done with.  It’s packed to the gills with so many familiar faces that I was kinda surprised when the credits rolled and I hadn’t shown up yet.  The always dependable Danny Trejo remains strong as the stoic and humorless title character.  He may be within months of needing some help blowing out the 70 (and one to grow on) candles on his next birthday cake, but Trejo is still convincing as the man, the myth, the legend that he was born (long ago) to play.  If Machete wants you dead, you already died five minutes ago.

Also having a blast are Amber Heard as a beauty queen moonlighting as Machete’s handler, Sofia Vergara as the world’s most dangerous brothel owner, and William Sadler as a redneck sheriff, along with returning actors Tom Savini and the aforementioned Michelle Rodriguez.  Also of note, Mel Gibson hams it up, taking a break from being the real world’s most hated villain to portray the movie world’s most hated villain.  You’ll also have a lot of fun with new character El Camaleon, a bounty hunter/hitman portrayed by… well, I don’t want to ruin it for you.  Stealing the show, however, is Oscar nominee Demian Bichir.  He’s hilarious as a cartel member/kingpin/federale that serves as an in-between bad guy/good guy before we get to Gibson’s arms dealer.  I should mention that my seemingly excessive use of slashes when describing Bichir’s Mendez is fully supported by that character’s multiple personalities.

As always, Rodriguez is absolutely spot on with the overall feel of the movie.  The music, cinematography, and editing all serve perfectly to accentuate that grindhouse feel.  The acting and effects work are all at the appropriate level of cheesy.  Those who remember the exploitation films of the 70’s and 80’s can tell you that, despite their exciting trailers, most of those films were largely filled with what we’d consider to be slow spots.  You’ll find none of that here – from beginning to end, Machete Kills never slows down, giving the whole thing a feeling of one of those trailers extended to full length (not surprising, given Machete’s origins).  Check your brain at the door lest it be surgically removed via a large knife, because this one will massively entertain you if you allow it to.

Jason’s Final Thoughts:

Some may feel that the ending pushes this film straight into The Two Towers’ territory, serving as just a setup for the inevitable trilogy capper rather than its own stand-alone film, but the fact that Rodriguez was fully aware of this (and even nods to it a few times) makes it more than forgiveable.  Give it a chance, and you’ll be rewarded with plenty of bloody action, a higher body count than a nursing home scrapbook, tons of humor, and lots of exploitation goodness.  Be on the lookout for a clever early scene that will both infuriate and amuse Amber Heard fans, a surprising run of Star Wars references, a quasi-cult that remembers to bring Mexican laborers before blasting off into space, and enough kills-by-propellor to warrant its own Propellor spinoff.  If you show up prepared to have fun, I can guarantee that this will be an absolute blast.  The fake trailer for Machete Kills Again… In Space was obviously filmed before this movie, despite depicting events that happen after it, so it’ll be interesting to see how and if Rodriguez  handles the inconsistencies between this film and the teaser for the third one.  But, on the other hand, who cares?  Bring it on!

Review by Jason Howard, Lead Entertainment Writer

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