Rental Corner: “Machete” sequel is all bang and no effort
The first minute and a half of “Machete Kills” begins with a fake trailer for a Machete movie set in space. The entire trailer promises a lightsaber wielding Danny Trejo, an assortment of celebrities including a Justin Bieber robot and plenty of heavy CGI effects. I didn’t feel pumped but kept asking myself through the rest of “Machete Kills” why we didn’t get that sequel when we got this one. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the first film and its commentary on immigration while stuffed in great fight scenes. But this follow-up does have the ideas and makings for an explosive feature but it feels sadly hollow.
Danny Trejo returns as the ex-Federal agent Machete Cortez, as the President of the United States (performed by a strange Charlie Sheen cameo) wants him to stop a nuclear missile being aimed at the White House by a supposed psychopath with intentions of blowing up the world as well. My thoughts were OK with the story at first but then things got really out of hand about midway. Upon meeting Marcoz Mendez, he learns the trigger to the bomb is in a pacemaker he has that will go off if he dies. As a result, Machete kidnaps him in hopes to drag him over the border to the technological facility that made the device and defuse it. If that wasn’t enough the stakes get raised when Marcoz reveals that he has a split personality but this doesn’t work when most of Demian Bichir feels villainous and less sympathetic. With the crazy side of him appearing more, it gets really confusing to know when he switches between his Jekyll and Hyde persona even after his first Jekyll moment.
Again, I was fine with this story change but then it start to really get out of control when we are given an assassin that can change any form of his body called the Chameleon (played by a variety of pointless cameos ranging from Cuba Gooding Jr. to Lady Gaga). Another good idea for a Machete sequel but it feels out of place here. And of course, not to mention another story line involving a group of brothel women lead by Sofia Vergara who try to kill Machete after taking her daughter in the first act and even that subplot goes nowhere after the leader’s daughter gets killed off without any motivation or acknowledgement.
The entire first half of the movie does have promise but I feel like there is too much going on and each subplot doesn’t have enough shared focus to feel fully developed. Again, there are great ideas for a sequel here like a Terminator-style parody with the Chameleon character and a Mad Max-style parody with the vengeful brothel women but they are tragically laid to waste. Even more confusing is how the Chameleon keeps changing face by removing one layer of masks after another which only makes me wonder how many disguises does he or she have under that stuff. Even Sofia Vergara refers to herself as a “Man-eater” because of a bit of exposition where she gnawed off a man’s family jewels but nothing about it pays off in the end.
And you know your sequel is desperate when it attempts a bait and switch for the last 40 minutes that makes “Machete Kills” feel more uneven. After Machete gets over the border, the movie goes into a bizarre science fiction parody as he meets up with a corporate business man named Luthor Voz, whose only notable element is that its the first villain Mel Gibson played. Luthor is a big Star Wars fan as his huge line of weaponry shows even down to crafting laser blasters, a mock version of Luke Skywalker’s land speeder (on wheels) and cloning his henchmen a lot. And its here that I completely give up with this movie. Much like the other subplots, it has promise but feels greatly lacking as they cram in Luthor being a super villain to the point he can predict the next event but again, this too has no pay off when we never get an explanation of how he got this element or even see it come full circle.
“Machete Kills” has a lot of promise but really crams so much in that it loses focus on what is the true story. And when we do find out what its been building to all this time, its obvious to us that this sequel is nothing more but a waste of space leading to a better movie that will never happen. Plot lines come and go without well-developed set up or flare and the climax rushes so much to the point we feel like we don’t care as one Star Wars reference gets tossed after another. It feels like director Robert Rodriguez really wants that Machete In Space sequel but please save that for the next movie instead of ruining it here.
Even the whole sequel feels effortless with action scenes clumsily shot with unneeded wide shots and scenes that feel the need to require establishing shots to show the direction of the action feel missing. A good example is a scene where Machete is about to fight off some baddies at a drive-in theater and yet we don’t have any long or wide shots to show the entire map out of the place or even get the feeling of being there. There’s a scene where a henchmen getting his entrails being latched onto a helicopter’s blade and being tugged in that is filmed in so far away that we feel no impact of the action or even get a feel it really happening. The effects and blood are obviously CGI and cheapen the ordeal and stunts. Worse of all is the endless film grain and specks that made Machete feel like a throwback to the 1970’s exploitation films is gone. We get a clear nice looking movie that doesn’t feel nitty and gritty like its predecessor. An even bigger crime is in the opening scene between Machete and the President when he promises to clear his record and make him a US Citizen. This deal wouldn’t make sense seeing at the end of the last movie, he got his green card thus defeating the purpose to all this. You know your sequel is not going to do well when it throws continuity out the window.
I admired “Grindhouse” and still do as well as enjoying what they did with the spin-off film, but what makes it different from those movies and this lame sequel is how “Machete Kills” is missing that timeless charm the other movies had. Sure the tone was 1970’s exploitation but it had this luster and charm tossing in veteran actors without it. “Machete Kills” tosses in big names but ones that sort of date the movie while others like Mel Gibson and William Sadler feel side-lined.
Even with a budget that is literally twice the amount “Machete” was made for, it feels like “Machete Kills” was made for less with the movie being executed and feeling like a direct-to-DVD feature and less of a big screen venue. Robert Rodriguez can make really good movies and this one shows a lot of promise. But unfortunately nothing comes together and it all feels like stuff tossed in to keep viewer’s interest and it doesn’t stick. “Back to the Future Part II” at least had a better way of handling its ideas and story with visiting the future and past all in one stroke with the focus being on Biff and the Sports Almanac from 2015 making it easy to follow. “Machete Kills” tosses stuff in but there is no driving force to keep it together.
Posted on July 22, 2014, in Rental Corner and tagged Action, Bad, Cult Classic, Danny Trejo, explosions, Fedreal Agent, Grindhouse, Machete, Machete Kills, Mel Gibson, Mexican, rental corner, Sequel, Worse movie. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.