For the second time this year a sequel is released by a different studio than where the franchise originated. The first was Kick-Ass 2, which suffered a brief box office existence, and I’m afraid the second such sequel is unlikely to fair much better. Machete Kills is the sequel to the now three-year-old original and six-year-old faux trailer that spawned the titular ex-Federale played by Danny Trejo. My lack of interest and low expectations helped me enjoy the first one, but the same can’t be said for this second go ’round, which is the lackluster exploitation film I expected the first to be.
Beginning with yet another fake trailer for what would be a third film in the franchise, Machete Kills Again… In Space, the audience is tipped off as to where this second film will be headed before it even begins, not to mention made to expect much more of the same. While the first film, I felt, worked as a send up of the grindhouse films it was homaging, the franchise now feels like nothing more than a montage of marketing stunts, few of which feel independent of each other. Then come to find out the same tired punchlines are recycled once again reminds us why films like this no longer exist.
How many border jokes do we need to hear before director Robert Rodriguez realizes his entire first film already used up the quota? How many times does William Sadler need to call Trejo’s Machete “Taco” before it’s just not that funny, if it ever was? And where the first film found a catch phrase in “Machete don’t text,” the sequel takes it one step further. Now Machete don’t tweet, fail or entertain.
Rodriguez, working from a script by Kyle Ward, manages to only find some amusement over the course of a lengthy 107-minute running time where I knew we were in for a long haul after the opening seconds and finally checked my watch 50 minutes later.
As we would expect and come to enjoy, rubber heads bounce to the floor after Machete promptly decapitates a group of thugs. This gratuitous violence and other examples continue to work, just as does an assassin by the name of the Chameleon who changes faces again, and again, and again to varying levels of amusement.
I also liked the corny idea of having the bad guy (Demian Bichir) tie the launch of a nuclear missile targeting the White House to his heart, but I think it was more because of Bichir’s performance than anything else. More than anyone, Bichir appears to be having a lot of fun as he plays a villain with multiple personality disorder in conjunction with short term memory loss. These little plot nuggets are fun, but they are too few and far apart to sustain such a bloated feature.
Along with the border jokes, the film continues its ability to mine humor and actors well past their prime and pop culture significance with the addition of Charlie Sheen as the President of the United States and Mel Gibson as villain #2. Then there’s Sophia Vergara, an actress whose talent seems limited to her cup size, which is, I guess, why Rodriguez felt it was best to equip her with a machine gun brassiere and a 50-caliber “strap on”. Oh, how you’ll laugh and laugh… or at least let out a forced chuckle?
If I were to go back and watch Machete a second time I expect I would be just as disinterested as I was with Machete Kills. The time has passed, which is why it surprises me Open Road Films felt it was a good idea to back a sequel when 20th Century Fox felt it was a franchise best left dead.
Everyone involved appears to be having fun and this is hardly a film worth hating, but when I go to the theater I hope to walk away feeling far more entertained than I did here, especially with a film as ridiculous as this one where pretty much anything goes. Star Wars jokes and Mel Gibson’s not-so-veiled commentary on his own fall from his place among the stars isn’t clever, but just another example of how Machete’s fifteen minutes are up.