Machete Kills

Machete was a great action movie with a message. It, a throwback to the grindhouse movies of the ’70s, featured Danny Trejo in the leading role and had him and a colorful cast of actors go through a simple yet poignant plot involving racial tensions and immigration issues in the southern states of America. It had a purpose, and that it had over-the-top, gory kills on top of that made it something that’s well worth seeing.

Machete Kills, by contrast, doesn’t have much of a point other than to get together a more colorful cast of actors and have Machete (Trejo) slice through an incredibly large number of people in order to stop the bad guy from executing his slightly more complicated but sillier plan. The message is gone. The bad guy — the actual one, who shows up with about 30 minutes left, not the one the film wants you to think is the bad guy, even though you know he isn’t — is crazy but he exists so that Machete can kill a bunch of people. Charlie Sheen is in the movie for maybe five scenes and he delivers the line that best sums up the film: “Machete kills. That’s what he does.”

The plot: Machete is hired by the President of the United states (Sheen, here listed as “Carlos Estevez,” his real name) to head down to Mexico and stop a “revolutionary,” Mendez (Demián Bichir), from launching a nuke and starting a world war. Spoiler alert, not that it’s a surprise: Mendez isn’t the real madman. That role goes to Mel Gibson, who shows up with a half hour to go and declares that he’s taking us all to space.

Most of the film takes place in Mexico, though, as Machete attempts to get Mendez to the border while there’s a $10 million bounty on each of their heads. Oh, and a group of girls from a brothel are chasing them. So is someone named the “Cameleón.” And pretty much everyone ever. It gets to the point of ridiculousness, which is likely what the film is going for. But it doesn’t work because we get overwhelmed with characters who sometimes stick around for a couple of scenes at the maximum.

Actually, Machete Kills feels rather disjointed, as if its first 2/3 was directed by one person, while the final 1/3 was done by another. This is odd, especially when you consider that Machete actually was directed by two people — Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis — while Machete Kills was done just by Rodriguez. Few of the characters amount to much — some disappear and reappear with little reason or motivation — and the plot’s twists and turns, while predictable, also take the story and tone in a completely different direction.

Machete Kills‘ worst crime, however, is not having an actual conclusion (okay, second worst crime; Jessica Alba is killed off in the opening scene and that’s just not a good way to go about making a movie). It opens with a fake trailer for its sequel, Machete Kills Again … in Space, which I was hoping was a joke. It’s almost as if that was thought up first, and then the filmmakers had to figure out how to get Machete into space. That would explain the film’s left turn at the two-thirds mark. But despite having a trailer for the sequel, whether or not we get one depends on how well Machete Kills does at the box office. The conclusion of the story hinges on a sequel, and we don’t have a guarantee one will ever happen.

“You’re overthinking it,” someone will inevitably say. “It’s a dumb action movie and you should just sit back and enjoy the action.” And that’s somewhat true. Machete had something to say, but that doesn’t mean its sequel needs to. The problem with this is that the action isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. Machete slices guys up, pulls out intestines, and slices more guys up. It’s not creative or a breath of fresh air like the first film.

And Machete has also become kind of a dull character. His deadpan demeanor worked fine for one film, but in this one all of the secondary characters are so much interesting than he is. The problem comes from them not sticking around long enough before another two are shoved in their place. The uninteresting main character can work with a strong supporting cast, but when most characters are limited to two or three scenes, that cast can’t hold Machete up.

The grindhouse feel isn’t even that prevalent this time around. Save for a couple of really poor special effect moments and the opening scene which just steals the “feature presentation” slide from, well, Grindhouse, you wouldn’t even know that this is supposed to be a send-up of ’70s grindhouse cinema. It just looks like a bad 2013 action movie. Over-the-top, sure, but nothing really all that absurd.

Machete Kills is a bad movie. Not an intentionally-bad-and-therefore-it’s-good movie; just a bad one. Its action isn’t terribly impressive, its plot is both predictable and convoluted, while making the film feel disjointed as soon as the real villain shows up, its supporting cast is infinitely more interesting than its hero, and it doesn’t even properly end, meaning in order to find out the end to Machete’s story, we have to hope that it makes enough money for a sequel to be justified. There is no point to this movie other than to watch Machete kill people. That’s it. For 100 minutes. Yawn.

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