Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino paid homage to the exploitation movies of their youth with the 2007 double feature Grindhouse. They had big plans to turn it into a franchise until the film died at the box office. Still, there was enough interest to spinoff Machete, a machete wielding badass who made his first appearance in one of Grindhouse‘s faux-trailers.
Described as ”FBI, CIA, and DEA all rolled into one mean burrito,” Machete starred in a self-titled feature film bolstered by over-the-top action and an eclectic cast that included Robert DeNiro and Lindsay Lohan. Of course, Machete couldn’t have worked without its star, Trejo, the craggily faced and tattooed character actor in his biggest role to date. Trejo returns in the sequel, Machete Kills, which remains faithful to its B-movie roots while upping the ante by adding a sci-fi spin. There’s a lead villain cut from the same mold as Hugo Drax from Moonraker and plenty of Star Wars references.
A mission to foil an arms deal ends disastrously for Machete and ICE agent Sartana (Jessica Alba). Our hero is about to be hanged by a redneck sheriff (William Sadler) when he’s pardoned by President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen, billed under his real name of Carlos Estevez). POTUS sends Machete into Mexico to track down a nuclear weapon that has fallen into the hands of a former cartel leader known as Mendez the Madman (Demián Bichir), so called because of his multiple personalities. However, the real mastermind is revealed to be billionaire industrialist Luther Voz (Mel Gibson), who has concocted a plan to engulf the entire world in nuclear war.
Also returning for the sequel are Michelle Rodriguez as the one-eyed revolutionary She and Tom Savini as hitman Osiris Amanpour. Joining them are Amber Heard as beauty queen/secret agent Miss San Antonio and Sofia Vergara as Desdemona, leader of a gang of deadly prostitutes. While the cast is as star-studded as its predecessor, most of the actors (Vanessa Hudgens, for example) appear in glorified cameos. One character, a master of disguise named The Chameleon, is simply there to justify a string of gonzo, guest appearances by Walt Goggins, Lady Gaga, and Cuba Gooding Jr. Only a few get to make any real impression, such as Sheen who has fun playing into his tabloid persona as a boozehound and horndog. Bichir and Gibson (in his first turn as a bad guy) give the best performances as both actors straddle the line between cartoonish villainy and honest-to-goodness gravitas. Bichir, in particular, brings some surprisingly soulful moments to Machete Kills.
Rodriguez’s flair for action isn’t fully on display here. Machete Kills manages a couple of decent set pieces, usually involving Machete versus Chilean martial arts star Marko Zaror. Unfortunately, much of the film is repetitive with Rodriguez relying one too many times on his hero killing henchmen by throwing them into helicopter blades. Sofia Vergara, who plays it to the hilt, packs a high caliber brassier as well as the crotch gun previously seen in Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn. Even a catfight between Amber Heard and Michelle Rodriguez comes off dull.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is superbly done with bright and vivid colors. Every wrinkle in Danny Trejo’s granite-like face stands out.
The audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The sound really comes alive during the action sequences with booming explosions and rattling gunfire.
Making Machete Kills (20:20) is a behind-the-scenes featurette that delves into the creation of Machete, Rodriguez’s directing style, and the bevy of beauties assembled for the cast.
The Blu-ray also includes a collection of deleted & extended scenes, a DVD copy of the film, along with Digital Copy and Ultraviolet download codes.
Film Value: 6
Machete Kills opens with another faux-trailer for a third picture, Machete Kills Again…in Space, that offers more thrills than the actual movie that followed. With a lack of fresh ideas, maybe it’s time to say, “Adios,” to this franchise.