It started with a trailer: a fake movie ad "left over" from the 1970s for a Mexploitation flick dropped into Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse ... which Robert Rodriguez later expanded into the very funny and pointedly satirical full-length Machete. Now, the sequel, Machete Kills, opens with a new fake 1970s relic trailer, for, heh, Machete Kills Again in Space. It hints at a completely ridiculous expansion of the Machete legend into Star Wars-era space opera, and it's as many degrees of insanity beyond where Machete Kills will take you.
Never let it be said that Rodriguez lets any fear of embracing cartoonish absurdity stop him. His wonderful recklessness isn't always successful — his Spy Kids movies quickly became an embarrassment — but so far, so good with the former Mexican Federale-turned-knife-wielding man of justice and bloody mayhem.
This time out, forget about the socially conscious core that fueled the exploitation engine of the first film. Rodriguez has gone for flat-out, no-message action comedy that is so outrageously over-the-top violent, it's impossible to object to any of it. The human body, when it meets a helicopter — we see that here, but it simply wouldn't happen. Yet it's so inventively gory that I laughed my head off.
Machete (Danny Trejo) is invited, no refusal allowed, by the President of the United States to head on down to Mexico and pull off a job that no legitimate American agent could manage: stop the insane cartel lord, with the crazy-ass missile he's bought with his ill-gotten millions, from launching the thing at Washington, D.C., intended as a sort of WMD middle finger to U.S. arrogance.
The plot, in the grand scheme, sounds action-movie straightforward enough. It's in the details that the brilliant foolishness comes to the fore (and accidentally holds up for ridicule the sorts of action movie plots we yawn at nowadays). The President is played by Carlos Estevez... that would be Charlie Sheen, of course, in a wicked riff on his father's turn in the role in a more serious capacity. The drug lord is played by Demian Bichir, a serious actor turned very, very goofy here. Machete's control operative in San Antonio is... Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), because beauty pageants turn out to provide awesome cover for a secret agent (apparently no one expects a blonde Barbie who dreams of world peace to be plotting covert ops).
All that beautiful idiocy is front-loaded into Machete Kills. There's so much more beyond that. It hasn't even gotten anywhere near Lady Gaga as a hired killer after Machete, or Mel Gibson as... well, you'll see.
The whole thing is completely preposterous in the best way. Rodriguez uses cheap '70s film gimmicks and tropes in smart, funny ways, particularly to underscore the problems today's movies often have with treating women as disposable props. When misogyny is met with a gunshot to the knee, it smoothes the way for a gal like me to go along with the fun. ♦MACHETE KILLS
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Starring Danny Trejo, Carlos Estevez, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard