But give Rodriguez credit: who else was ready to photograph Danny Trejo like a larger-than-life sex god? That, and the director’s dedication to making movies for a Latino audience, make his work unusual in an ever-more homogenous blockbuster landscape.
If only that made for a better movie. Like its forbear, Machete Kills wants to be exploitation and message movie. A constant stream of self-aware jokes and irony make messages of immigration and Mexican/American policy reform impossible to take any more seriously than the rest of the film. What could be a whiff of satire turns into a big comic fart as Charlie Sheen bellows “I’m the President of the United ****in’ States!” just before signing Machete’s citizenship papers with a giant rubber stamp that says “US Citizen.”
The tone grates after a while, as the only thing Rodriguez truly seems to believe in is that aforementioned love triangle: guns, babes, dudes. The action is no solace; rarely well-staged, it all looks cheap and shoddy, with Birdemic-level digital effects. The line between “parodying crap” and actual crap can be thin, and Machete Kills regularly trips over it.
For all the lousy staging, dingy effects, and stale jokes, there’s still that cast. The actors seem to be having an effin’ blast. I had a great time watching Cuba Gooding Jr., Amber Heard, Antonio Banderas, Walton Goggins, Sofia Vergara (who really goes for it), and William Sadler. Many are only around for a few minutes, but their scenes have great energy and genuine laughs. Most of Gibson’s scenes hit, too. He’s basically a Bond villain, with a lot of Machete Kills feeling like bargain-basement Moonraker. Gibson’s character eventually falls victim to the film’s all-or-nothing ethos, too, and the overkill left me thinking I’d had enough well before the movie ended.
/Film score: 5 out of 10