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"MACHETE KILLS"
(2013) (Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action: The U.S. President recruits an enigmatic mercenary to kill a Mexican revolutionary who is threatening America with a nuclear bomb.
PLOT:
Machete (DANNY TREJO), the legendary Mexican Federal turned mercenary, is on a mission with Agent Sartana Rivera (JESSICA ALBA in a cameo) when Sartana is murdered by a masked gunman and his legion of assassins. Machete is apprehended by federal agents and brought to U.S. President Rathcock (CHARLIE SHEEN, acting under his given name of CARLOS ESTEVEZ), who offers him amnesty and citizenship. In exchange, Machete must track down and kill Mendez (DEMIAN BICHIR), a revolutionary suffering from split personalities who has a nuclear missile pointed at Washington.

Machete's contact in Texas is Miss San Antonio (AMBER HEARD), a beauty pageant contestant who is also a government agent. She has Machete parachute into Acapulco and make contact with Mendez's prostitute daughter, Cereza (VANESSA HUDGENS), and her man-hating madam of a mother, Desdemona (SOFIA VERGARA). When Mendez has Cereza murdered for betraying him, Desdemona vows revenge on both him and Machete. Also wanting to kill them both is El Camaleon (WALT GOGGINS, CUBA GOODING JR., LADY GAGA, and ANTONIO BANDERAS), a face-changing assassin eager to collect the bounty on both their heads.

Machete eventually learns that Mendez's pacemaker is keyed into the atomic warhead. So, if his heart stops beating, the missile launches. Machete also learns that the true villain behind the plot is Voz (MEL GIBSON), a billionaire arms dealer who dreams of starting a nuclear war and watching the Earth destroy itself from his secret space station in orbit. It's up to Machete and his old friend and revolutionary, Luz (MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ), to stop him.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The first "Machete" was a glorious send-up to the B-movie exploitation action flicks of the 1970s and '80s. Danny Trejo starred as the title character, an enigmatic Mexican folk legend who walked softly and carried a very big blade as he fought corruption on both sides of the border. Director Robert Rodriguez's new sequel, "Machete Kills," stretches the concept too thin.

It runs out of B-movie clichés in its opening act, then becomes a meandering in-joke that rather oddly tries to rip off the Roger Moore-era James Bond films that centered around a megalomaniacal villain (in this case, a hammy Mel Gibson) trying to inflict global catastrophe on Earth to start a new world order in space.

The film is really a series of "ups" that eventually comes crashing down. It's a follow-up, a send-up, and a shoot-'em-up. The main problem is Trejo's Machete Cortez practically lumbers through this film like a Mexican Jason Voorhees.

He carries a massive blade, barely says anything, has very little in the way of motivation, and is pretty much invincible (at one point, he is hung and doesn't die … at another point, he is shot repeatedly at close range and miraculously recovers). Rodriguez pretty much knows the actor and the character's limitations, so he surrounds him with some extremely colorful supporting characters played by big names.

I do admire some of the performances here, especially those playing against type like Sofia Vergara as a man-hating madam with a bra and panties that shoot bullets; Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, and Cuba Gooding Jr. as cold-blooded assassins hot on Machete's trail; and Gibson as the '70s sci-fi loving weapons industry mogul hell-bent on nuking the planet, escaping in his space shuttle, and using Mexican day labor to build his orbiting space station, and starting over.

But the film is never involving. At all times, I felt like a spectator just watching for the next slick cameo, the next gun battle (there's at least a dozen), the next creative beheading. And when you have a character who is - again - quite literally indestructible ... what's the point? A few chuckles, some good titillation in spots, but that's about it. "Machete Disappoints." I give it a 4 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed October 10, 2013 / Posted October 11, 2013


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