Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Machete Kills (2013)

Back in 2007, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez joined forces to pay homage to the gratuitous sex and violence of the grindhouse era of cinema in their double feature theatrical release Grindhouse, combining Rodriquez's Planet Terror and Tarantino's Death Proof. At the time, several fake trailers for non-existent exploitation flicks were produced, to enhance the grindhouse experience of the double feature. One of them, Robert Rodriguez's Machete, starring Danny Trejo as the titular Mexican ex-fed, eventually blossomed into a feature film that was released in 2010. It was spectacularly gratuitous. And in 2013, it got a sequel - Machete Kills.

Machete Kills is every bit as bombastic as Machete was. Danny Trejo returns, with another star-studded ensemble cast. Particularly noteworthy were Mel Gibson's appearance as a tech CEO/cultleader, and Lady Gaga (among others) as a shapeshifting bounty hunter. Charlie Sheen (billed as Carlos Estevez) stars as the President of the United States, and Demian Bichir plays one of the film's most charismatic characters, a Mexican crimelord-turned-revolutionary. As for Machete himself, if this wasn't the case already, his international reputation, fighting prowess, and survivability is growing to superhero levels.

The stakes are high in this installment of the Machete series, with a threat that eventually escalates to the level of nuclear holocaust, giving the film the feeling of a gratuitous Mexican version of a James Bond flick. The sexual innuendo is blatant (if never very explicit), the violence as gore-tastic and over-the-top as ever (I loved the molecular blaster), and the straight-faced humor heavy. In fact, what might have begun as an ode to the grindhouse days seems to be evolving into something of a tongue-in-cheek parody (making comparisons to Austin Powers more and more applicable).

But it is a loving and playful parody. And nowhere is this more obvious than in the film's unselfconscious treatment of its own advertising potential. Since Machete began life as a trailer, it doesn't seem so out of place that Machete Kills plays up a new trailer to its own as-yet-unproduced sequel (which, I'll be honest, if I didn't see it listed as "in production" on IMDb, I would have thought was just a joke) Machete Kills Again... In Space! - which obviously parodies both Star Wars and Jason X (featuring that other popular violent marauder who loves to wield a machete). If you think that's taking even over-the-top to an over the top level, I'd be inclined to agree. But you have to admit, Danny Trejo wielding a light-machete is an image too hilarious not to take advantage of!


  1. Mexican James Bond -- I definitely feel that. I kept saying to myself while watching this "This is just like James Bond but better."

    I honestly liked this one more than the first (which I also liked), and Machete Kills Again... In Space looks just as good.

  2. I can't say if it was better than the first - it's been too long since I saw that one. But I'll say this for "In Space" - there's a very good possibility of it tipping the balance too far into the realm of parody and ridiculous humor (which seems to be its aim), distancing itself even further from its grindhouse roots. But if I sat through Jason X, you can bet I'll be willing to give Machete Kills Again...In Space a fair try.