“Trained to kill. Left for dead. Back for more.” Robert Rodriguez’s excursion into exploitation cinema continues with Machete Kills, sequel to Machete (2010), a film based on a long-gestating idea that was originally conceived by the famous director back in 1994 after meeting the eventual star Danny Trejo during pre-production for Desperado (they later discovered they are second cousins!). Cutting together a fake trailer for ‘Machete’, and having it featured ahead of the theatrical release of Grindhouse (2007), fans expressed interest in it becoming its own feature film, and the rest is now history. Machete Kills is the second in a planned trilogy of movies, and is even more ridiculous than the last… but does the lure of seeing Charlie Sheen as President of the United States (that’s right) warrant the purchase of the blu-ray?
“Machete Kills Again… In Space” I expected a preview to precede the film, as is tradition, but that I didn’t expect! Watching the mock trailer for what was formerly titled “Machete Kills Again”, I found myself confused with no prior knowledge of the drastic thematic change… is this a fourth Machete film being planned?! Nope, they’ve just decided to take the final entry of the trilogy into space. Guess that answers the question before it can even be asked: ‘how much crazier can this get?’ Now we have Justin Bieber as a robot named Bleep to look forward to; he gets promptly destroyed by Machete though (yay!). Anyway, Machete Kills then starts with our title character and his beloved Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) intercepting a weapons deal between crooked U.S. Military and the Mexican Cartel. As a re-introduction to the outrageous rules and logic of this world (as if the prior-mentioned trailer doesn’t give enough of an indication) the duo – carrying mere pistols – successfully “ambush” 10 soldiers armed with machine guns, all of whom immediately surrender and one of which actually attempts to escape. Of course, the Cartel eventually arrive before yet another faction of men in luchadore masks that remind of Bane from Batman drop in via attack helicopters. Needless to say, all hell breaks loose.
Amongst the commotion, Machete lops off a few heads (which pop up into the sky, breaking all physics), slices another guy clean in half right down the middle (Mortal Kombat “Fatality!” style) and acts as a conduit in electrocuting a bad guy by grabbing him with one hand, and with the other sticking his namesake weapon into an electrical box. Meanwhile, Sartana uncovers what exactly the army personnel were attempting to sell – a nuclear bomb – and is murdered by the apparent leader of the masked men wielding a… blaster? Let the sci-fi foreshadowing commence! Machete comes back around to find her lifeless body, almost suffering the same fate if not for the imminent arrival of the police. Taken into custody, and accused of Sartana’s murder, Machete is hung by an extremely racist Sheriff Doakes (William Sadler) – who keeps calling him “Taco” – in what is possibly one of my favourite scenes in cinematic history. The stool is kicked out from underneath our protagonist and we see his dangling feet… but when the Sheriff looks up from lighting his cigar, he sees Machete staring right back at him. Taken aback, the Sheriff moves to his left, and after a brief fake-out, Machete’s eyes slowly find him. They say he doesn’t die… “Maybe he’s just got a thick neck is all”. Machete then snarls at him, still hanging, as the President of the United States calls and wants to speak to, you guessed it, our man Machete. Doakes shoots him down and Machete shrugs it off, answering the call. How much more bad-ass can you be?!
A meeting is set-up, with the unlikely pairing of cult icon Danny Trejo and the insanely infamous Charlie Sheen (credited under his birth name, Carlos Estevez) playing out before our eyes. President Rathcock (yep, that’s his name all right) offers Machete U.S. citizenship if he eliminates the psychopathic revolutionary Marcos Mendez (Demián Bichir), who is threatening to fire a nuclear missile at Washington, D.C. if the American government refuses to invade Mexico, stop the cartels and save its government from corruption. Machete’s acceptance leads him on a quest to bring Mendez – who has had the trigger to the nuke wired to his heart – over the border whilst protecting himself and the bi-polar Mendez from a hit put on both their heads. Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Lady Gaga and Antonio Banderas each take turns in embodying La Camaleón, a face-changing assassin (what else is Cuba doing these days?), but it’s Mel Gibson as the visionary Star Wars fan Voz who takes most of the spotlight, and is our connection to Machete venturing into the blackness of space. It’s all one hell of a ride, packed with clones, wacky characters and kills that, again, would fit in any Mortal Kombat video game. Machete throws a guy’s intestines into a helicopter rotor, which pulls him in and slices him into a red mist! Does it make any sense? No, but that’s why it’s so brilliant!
Visuals & Audio
Machete Kills‘ 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer looks great, with no noticeable blemishes or flaws present. The film itself is frequently drenched in a warm palette of mixed shades of yellow, with strong contrast levels. Noticeable by comparison to its predecessor is a more subtle use of film grain, barely even visible in many scenes. In fact, on a whole, Rodriguez has reigned himself in with regards to utilising faux print damage effects, although they were still heaped on heavily during the “prevues of coming attractions” that plays before the film begins. Instead, more of a focus is placed on the hilariously “bad” CGI and chroma keying. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is clear and crisp, adding a certain weight and impact to proceedings. Being an action-packed film, the score is aptly dramatic, except for the moments where Machete “gets busy”… in which case the classic “bow chicka bow wow” 70’s porno music plays on cue. Sound effects, such as for the numerous disembowelments, are signaturely hyperbolised, much like every other element of the movie.
Machete Kills takes the stupidity to a whole ‘nother level, but that is said with the best regards imaginable. Grindhouse theater is a genre in and of itself, and one that many do not understand. For those who feel they fall into that category, I don’t see a point in recommending films like Machete Kills to you with hopes that you will miraculously “get it” – we all have different senses of humour (“Machete loves everybody”). I am disappointed to not see any special features on this blu-ray release, however it is also set at a lower than standard price point for the format, which softens said disappointment. Regardless, the purposely schlocky, over-the-top, cheesy nature of these throwbacks are what make them entertaining, and if you’re like me, you enjoyed the first film and will definitely have an appreciation for the exploitative, gory, ludicrous B-Movie homage that Machete Kills is.
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.