'Machete Kills' chops up B-grade genre

The Fresno BeeOctober 9, 2013 

This image released by Open Road Films shows Danny Trejo, left, and Michelle Rodriguez in a scene from "Machete Kills."

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It looked like director Robert Rodriquez had crashed into the absurdity ceiling with his 2010 tongue-in-cheek action film "Machete," a festival of blood, bullets and babes. It's only fitting that since that movie now appears to be the first of a trilogy, it was simply setting a standard for the outrageousness to come.

"Machete Kills" continues the story of Machete (Danny Trejo), a blade for hire who is recruited by the President to go to Mexico and stop a madman revolutionary (Demian Bichir). That sounds like the plot for a typical B-grade movie, until you realize that Machete can't die — even when hanged or shot countless times. The President is played by a gun-happy, sex-crazed Charlie Sheen (credited as Carlos Estevez). And there's a madman who has wired a trigger to his heart that will launch a missile toward Washington, D.C., if it stops beating.

Preposterousness, thy name is Rodriguez.

The director continues his fascination with the drive-in movie format that features more sex and violence than plot and character development. What keeps the movie from being easily dismissed as a cheesy blip on the feature-film radar is the way Rodriguez piles on the insanity.

When a price is put on Machete's head, he becomes the target of a bounty hunter known as La Camaleón. Through that campy "Mission Impossible" trickery of a person pulling off a face mask to reveal a new identity, La Camaleón is played by Walton Goggins, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Lady Gaga. That's some great disguise work.

There's no shortage of sexual material, from a hilarious love scene between Machete and his Texas-based handler Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) to Sofía Vergara as a brothel madam who sports a high-caliber bra. Even supporting players like Alexa Vega get into the sexual act, sporting outfits that have less material than a dryer sheet. Just like the violence, the sex is played for laughs.

The topper is having Mel Gibson play the industrialist looking to build a better world in space. Considering the actor's racial rants, this would have seemed to have been a dangerous choice of roles. But Gibson's casting is like everything else in this movie. If you take even a single second of it seriously, then you've selected the wrong film.

If a third offering is made in the series, Rodriguez needs to update a few of his classic visual gags. The use of what appears to be a scratched film introducing the coming attractions has lost its originality, as has the fake movie trailer before the feature. Rodriguez has shown great creativity in his movies. But part of "Machete Kills" feels more like laziness than a push for originality.

Those who love the kind of outlandish films will find "Machete" has some cutting moments.


 

MOVIE REVIEW

"Machete Kills," rated R for language, sexual content, violence. Stars Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen, Amber Heard. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. Running time: 106 minutes. Grade: C+

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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