By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When you go over the top on purpose, you’re still over the top.
When you imitate and celebrate sloppiness, you’re still being sloppy.
And when you make a bad movie on purpose, it’s still a bad movie.
Purposefully or not, Machete Kills is an oh-so-bad movie, an exploitation action thriller bursting with bad boys, bullets, and babes that ends up being a bargain-basement Bond-flick parody that parodies itself.
Machete Kills is actually a too-long, too-amateurish, too-self-indulgent, too-thin, and too-stretched sketch that should have stayed a short and spiffy trailer.
The usual progression in Hollywood moviemaking is to shoot a film, then telescope it down and create a two-minute trailer out of it for publicity purposes. But Machete Kills is a product of development in the opposite direction: first there was a mock trailer in Grindhouse, which led to the 2010 cult hit, Machete.
Now we have a sequel, one in which Danny Trejo returns as the titular action hero, deadpan former Mexican Police detective Machete Cortez, now a snarling spy who fights against crime and injustice and is recruited by the US president to stop a terrorist arms dealer and a mad revolutionary from launching a deadly missile that’s aimed at the nation’s capital.
The star-studded cast supporting him, doing a lot more posing than acting but providing a bit of fun as recognizable faces and good sports, includes Charlie Sheen (being “Introduced” and playing the president while acting under his given name, Carlos Estevez), Michelle Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Sofia Vergara, Antonio Banderas, Jessica Alba, Amber Heard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Zoe Saldana, Vanessa Hudgens, Demian Bashir, William Sadler, Alexa Vega, and Lady Gaga.
Several cast members –- Bashir and Gibson in particular –- turn in watchable performances that suggest that, if director Robert Rodriguez had presented them with more meritorious material, might have contributed to something worthwhile.
Writer-director Rodriguez (Desperado, the four Spy Kids flicks, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Faculty), working from a screenplay by Kyle Ward from a story Rodriguez co-wrote with his cousin Alvaro, isn’t solely interested in comic-book-frivolous escapism, despite his reliance on violence-celebrating, laugh-getting special effects.
The theme of Mexican/American immigration policy reform is certainly evident throughout. But any substantive message or agenda is difficult to notice, let alone take seriously, amidst all the goofy gunplay and cartoonish gore.
Changing tone and genre more often than costumes, mixing arbitrary plotting with slapdash action with incohesive editing, the film depends on its abundant tongue-in-cheek humor to help to round out any self-important edges.
But it’s nowhere near enough. The movie is still witheringly adolescent in its embrace of campy outrageousness. This is moviemaking at its most anarchic.
Would that the level of wit even approached the level of ultra-violence, and that we were having as good a time as the cockamamie, cameoing co-stars.
So we’ll execute 1½ stars out of 4 for this juvenile sex-and-violence hodgepodge that is apparently, according to the fake trailer that opens the film, to be followed by another sequel, “Machete Kills Again…in Space.” The only thing Machete Kills kills is any interest in seeing another sequel.