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Machete Kills

There were already 50 people in line for Captain Philips 90 minutes before it started when I was at the movies on Thursday.  This morning, I overheard 6 people in front of me and 3 behind me in line buy tickets for Gravity.

Of course, I saw Machete Kills.

A quick story before I do the review.  Two months ago I was in a theater and the previews were playing.  The trailer for Machete Kills came on.  When the voiceover stated “Carlos Estevez as the President” the lady behind me said, and I am not making this up, “Oh my!  He looks just like Charlie Sheen!  I didn’t know there was a third brother!”

For those of you who aren’t in the know, Machete Kills is the sequel to 2010’s Machete which was based on a fake trailer that ran during the 3-hour, 2-movie Grindhouse.  The more you know.  While Machete worked hard to live up to the excitement that the fake trailer instilled in fans of action, director Robert Rodriguez, actor Danny Trejo and ridiculous films in general, Machete Kills has absolutely no expectations to live up to and is all the better for it.

I wish I could call the plot straightforward, but truly it is as ridiculous as everything else about the film.  Just before he is about to be killed for a crime he didn’t commit, Machete (Danny Trejo) is pardoned by the president himself and asked to undertake a mission into Mexico, a mission that could save the U.S. capital from certain doom.

Why would travelling to Mexico be so dangerous?  Well, it’s because America built a huge wall on the border and now all of Mexico is a dangerous, nearly lawless place that is wholly run by the warring cartels.  Also, the President himself proposed the legislation that let the wall come into being so of course he can’t go through the usual channels.

Once in Mexico, Machete learns that crazed revolutionary Mendez (Demian Bichir) has a missile aimed at Washington, D.C. and should he die, the rocket will fire.  Also, he has a device embedded into his chest that will kill him in 24 hours, and only one person in the world can deactivate it.

So now Machete has to get Mendez back to America to find the only man who can stop the countdown, but it’s still not that simple!  You see, in the event of a kidnapping, Mendez has ordered his men to place a $10 million bounty on his head so that cutthroats, killers and assassins from all over would try to end his life.

On top of the assassins and killers, Machete is also being chased by Desdemona (Sofia Vergara), a man-hating brothel owner who blames him for her daughter’s death.  She and her group of murderous prostitutes are constantly on his tail, doing their best to put a bullet between his eyes.

But that’s not all!  No, the man who created the missile in the first place also has his own plans and desperately wants Machete to be a part of them.

Indeed, there is a whole lot going on in Machete Kills but what makes it work is the sheer silliness of it all.  This film has gone beyond paying homage to grindhouse cinema.  It has gone so far off the deep end of insanity that it has managed to loop back around to making sense again.

What makes everything work is just how game all everyone seems to be.  Danny Trejo plays the silent anti-hero perfectly.  Assassins Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas all bring a goofy quality to their roles and Sofia Vergara is so delightfully over-the-top that she stole every scene she was in.  In fact, I have nothing but praise for every actor in the film.  Mel Gibson, Amber Heard and Michelle Rodriguez all gave perfect performances no matter how ridiculous their characters were.

It was also nice to see Tom Savini again, as I’m relatively certain that I have never seen a movie with him in it that I disliked.

The make-up and special effects are just good enough to look intentionally bad, as when Machete slices a man in half and the body hilariously explodes with blood as if this is a hyper-violent anime.  There is a lot of gore, but it is all so cartoonish that I don’t believe it will make people squeamish.  If there’s one thing I learned from Machete Kills is that you should really stay away from any sort of rotating blade.

One last thing to note is all the comedy crammed into this film.  There are a lot of one-liners and even a few payoff jokes, on top of a lot of Star Wars sight gags.

Machete Kills was not a great movie but it was an incredibly entertaining one.  If you give Robert Rodriguez enough money to do what he wants, you will not be disappointed with the results.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be petitioning Hollywood to greenlight Machete Kills Again…In Space.

Machete Kills: B- 

Gravity addendum:  I saw the film again, this time in 3D IMAX and I have two things to say about the experience.  First, if you have not yet seen it and you have the chance to view it in 3D, do so.  It was absolutely gorgeous, and since it was filmed with 3D in mind, it actually clears up a lot of the muddiness I experienced with the 2D version. Surprisingly, it also made things less dizzying.

Secondly, the plot and dialog seemed a lot worse during the second viewing, and an observant viewer will most likely be more annoyed with all the visible plot holes once they’re no longer amazed by the view.