October 10, 2013

Review: 'Machete Kills’ keeps its violent promises

Things explode, heads are removed and mayhem dominates.

By Joe Gross
McClatchy Newspapers

“Machete kills,” U.S. President Rathcock says during, um, “Machete Kills.” “That’s what he does.” So, no false advertising here, folks.

click image to enlarge

Danny Trejo as Machete, left, and Demian Bichir as Mendez in “Machete Kills.”

Open Road Films

REVIEW

“MACHETE KILLS,” starring Danny Trejo, Demian Bichir, Marko Zaror and Amber Hall. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content. Running time: 1:47

Say what you will about junky genre pictures with leaps in logic, ultra-violence and one impossible thing after another – such movies harness cinema’s more overwhelming qualities better than most well-meaning indie flicks about things like “real people” and “relationships.” But don’t go to Robert Rodriguez’s “Machete Kills” expecting deep thoughts on anything. At all.

Shot in 29 days with an I-suppose-it-counts-as-a-script by Kyle Ward from a story by Rodriguez, “Machete Kills” stars the always-entertaining Danny Trejo as the titular ex-federale and “enemy of the cartels.” The second movie in the series (which sprang from a fake trailer that Rodriguez cut for his movie “Grindhouse”) follows the man with the giant knife on a mission on for the American government.

After a rough ambush, Machete is saved from lynching down South by a timely phone call from Rathcock (Carlos Estevez, otherwise known as Charlie Sheen), who needs the man who “IS Mexico,” as the president puts it, to stop a Mexican madman with a bomb.

Said madman is named Mendez, played by Demian Bichir, best known to American audiences for his terrific turn as Juarez police detective Marco Ruiz in the FX TV program “The Bridge.” Bichir, all squints and rat-like faces, nearly scampers away with “Machete Kills.” Revolutionary sometimes, violent lunatic other times, spy now and then, Bichir’s Mendez is the over-the-toppiest thing in a movie that can barely see the top from its altitude.

The other standout is Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror as the bad guy’s enforcer named … wait for it … Zaror. Dude is over 6 feet tall but moves incredibly fast, like a smaller man, and his combat scenes are genuinely thrilling to watch.

Things explode, heads are removed and mayhem ensues. Also, a guy in a business suit and a Mexican wrestling mask shoots a laser gun, so you can check that off your cinematic bucket list.

There’s a vaguely political subplot about the war on drugs in “Machete Kills,” but the movie’s overall cartoonishness makes its predecessor look like “Schindler’s List.” Look for Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio, Machete’s government handler (as it were); Sofia Vergara as a deadly brothel madam (is there any other kind?); and cameos by Cuba Gooding Jr., Walt Goggins and Lady Gaga.

And yes, that is “Spy Kids” star Alexa Vega as a hooker. She is 25 now, but it’s still a little weird to see her up there.

Oh, and Mel Gibson plays Voz, the big bad guy, and given his politics, none of his dialogue seems that bonkers.

What is most fun about “Machete Kills” is its sense of itself. It is the most comic-booky movie you will see this year, far more so than the superhero fare that takes its own plotting entirely too seriously.

Much as comic books were from the 1940s to, say, “Watchmen” in 1986, you never know exactly what will happen next. All you know is that it will be cheap, fast and out of control. And a machine gun bra might be involved.

Now, how about a movie about the further adventures of Zaror and Mendez?

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