Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Theaters: MACHETE KILLS (2013)

(US/Russia - 2013)

Directed by Robert Rodriguez.  Written by Kyle Ward.  Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Walton Goggins, Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba, Alexa Vega, William Sadler, Tom Savini, Julio Oscar Mechoso, Marko Zaror, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Marci Madison, and introducing Carlos Estevez. (R, 107 mins)

Originating as one of the fake trailers in Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's GRINDHOUSE (2007), MACHETE was spun off into its own film in 2010, finally giving the great Danny Trejo the spotlight in his own project.  The resulting film, parodying the same grindhouse aura of GRINDHOUSE, was gleefully over-the-top trash with everyone from Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, Lindsay Lohan, and Robert De Niro on hand to make fun of themselves.  MACHETE KILLS is more of the same, only sillier, if that's even possible.  Rodriguez isn't so much emulating '70s grindhouse trash anymore as much as he's just making a ludicrous parody of action movies.  There's a good amount of laughs and some even more self-deprecating casting, but it's all just too much.  Running a gaseous 107 minutes, Rodriguez gets pretty self-indulgent with MACHETE KILLS, and it probably would've been better if it had been 20-30 minutes shorter, making it more in line with what it's supposed to be riffing.

After seeing his partner and lover Sartana (Jessica Alba) killed while on a covert government mission, Machete is summoned to the White House and assigned by President Rathcock ("introducing Carlos Estevez") to go into Mexico and kill Mendez (Demian Bichir), a revolutionary with a split personality who has a nuclear missle aimed at Washington, DC that's wired to his heart and will launch if his heart stops beating.  During their confrontation, Mendez's evil personality pulls the pin on the heart device, giving Machete 24 hours to dismantle it, which requires the two of them crossing the border into the US (as the film briefly turns into an "...if they don't kill each other first! mismatched-buddy movie) to find the only man who can do it:  megalomaniacal multi-billionaire weapons manufacturer and global terrorist Luther Voz (Mel Gibson).  Voz designed the detonator and has even bigger plans beyond nuking Washington:  he's got a space station hovering above the planet and will be populating it with the richest of the rich after starting a series of global catastrophes.  With crazed, gun-barrel-breasted madam Desdemona (a scenery-chewing Sofia Vergara) and elusive assassin La Chamaleon (alternately played by Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas) in hot pursuit, Machete gets help from sexy undercover agent Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), and his old cohort Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) to thwart Voz's nefarious plan of taking over the galaxy.

Filled with intentionally dubious-looking CGI and ridiculous levels of violence and gore, MACHETE KILLS is dumb fun, which is the whole point.  But there's no denying that it starts to drag after a while and you wonder if maybe this should've been left as a trailer.  A lot of it is repetitious and could've been trimmed down, like the whole subplot with William Sadler as a racist sheriff on the Arizona border, who keeps calling Machete "Taco."  The character of "La Chamaleon" is funny, but Rodriguez and screenwriter Kyle Ward don't do much with it other than put increasingly unlikely actors in the role for a scene before they disappear.  Only Trejo appears throughout the film, and it's obvious that everyone else dropped by as their schedule allowed ("Carlos Estevez" never interacts with any other cast members--he and Trejo are never in the same shot together--and he actually looks CGI'd in his final scene).   Stone-faced Trejo is still a badass Machete and his emotionless delivery of lines like "Machete don't Tweet" are never not funny.  Between this and his role as the main villain in the upcoming THE EXPENDABLES 3, it's clear that the far-beyond-damage control Gibson is throwing in the towel and diving right into the self-parody phase of his career, probably because there's no other offers coming his way, but still, it's amusing seeing him on a huge set straight out of MOONRAKER and wearing a Darth Vader-like space cape.  Thanks to Trejo and some stars checking their egos at the door, MACHETE KILLS is enjoyable and the actors are having a blast, but there's just too much of it.  It overstays its welcome and simply doesn't know when to quit.  Hopefully, Rodriguez can rein it in a little and keep it to more sensible 85-90 minutes if and when he gets around to the promised third entry whose trailer is featured at the beginning of the film:  MACHETE KILLS AGAIN...IN SPACE!

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