MACHETE KILLS. Starring Danny Trejo, Demian Bishir, Mel Gibson, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga, Walter Goggins, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudegens, Sofia Vergera, Charlie Sheen (billed as introducing Carlos Estevez). Directed by Robert Rodriguez. 107 minutes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong bloody violence, coarse language and sexual references).
There is one thing you can say about the Machete series. It does not take itself too seriously. But it takes being deadpan and ironical with the humour quite seriously – and in that way it works successfully. Not that everybody would want to see the Machete films! They demand a fairly macho approach to movies from both men and women in the audience!
Writer-director (and director of photography, editor and co-composer) Robert Rodriguez, Texas-based, has always had an interest in genre films, loving action, but always ready to delve into the shadow side of human nature and present (exploit) human capacity for evil in fairly graphic ways, a Grindhouse imagination (From Dusk to Dawn, Sin City, ). His career has given him freedom to do as he wishes – and that is obvious from his indulgences in Machete and Machete Kills.
The film starts with a trailer of Machete Kills Again – in Space. It looks like a joke, but just see how this plot progresses and how it ends. The trailer is not so implausible (at least in the Machete context).
Then Machete goes into action – in Mexico. This time he has been requested to investigate drug dealings and other crimes. He is portrayed again by Danny Trejo whose gnarled looks (very) make him look mean and meaner, enough to give anyone a fright. Though he can shows his more human side. But, it is Machete in action, even without his machete, that look more like computer games violence than anything real.
There is someone who is after him, but takes different human forms, The Chameleon. Some of the forms include Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr and Lady Gaga. And there is a succession of young actresses and Sofia Vergera as a villain.
There is a joke in introducing trouble-prone Charlie Sheen, with his real name of Carlos Estevez, putting him in the role of the president of the United States – jogging audience memories of his father, Martin Sheen, portraying President Bartlett in the television series, The West Wing.
As Machete seeks the drug lord, the films seems a bit James Bondish, larger-than-life villain and tough action. Played by Demian Bichir, he is at one minute a ruthless gangster, the next a respectable agent trying to do his work in dangerous circumstances. But, that is only the half of it. The US government want Machete to track down an arms-dealer. This is even more James Bondish with a Blofeld-like villain, Voz, played by Mel Gibson.
This gets Machete into all kinds of dangers and trying to stop Voz launching into space with a group of wealthy humans who have paid big money to be re-located in space – as well as our hero, like Bond, trying to defuse a nuclear weapon within seconds. Off they go – and we realise the trailer is all too relevant to the adventures of Machete.
It has its violence and gory moments. It has its gross moments. But, with its solemn and, with respect, ugly antihero, a stock of one-liners and a mentality that likes to spoof the conventions it is using, Machete Kills can be listed as one of those guilty pleasures that you wouldn’t like your friends to know about!!
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out October 24 2013.