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Machete Kills is funny, outlandish and a whole lot of fun. For awhile. Unfortunately, its goofy, slapdash premise just isn’t enough to hold up the sequel. It gets old in a hurry, and when it does, its somewhat abbreviated runtime of 108 minutes crawls by. That’s the problem with making an absurd movie absent any connection to reality. Without actual stakes, rules and coherence, a movie like this needs to maintain humor or over-the-top shock throughout or it becomes boring and stupid. It’s unfair to say Machete Kills is boring and stupid, but it flirts with both of those adjectives far too often to be considered a good movie.
The film’s basic premise follows Machete (Danny Trejo), a Mexican detective/ spy/ jack of all trades who is enlisted by President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen) to prevent a missile attack in exchange for United States citizenship. Our hero agrees, and he sets off South of the Border for a farcical adventure that plays out like a series of and-then-he-mets involving Michelle Rodriguez, Demian Bichir, Sofia Vergara, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr, Amber Heard, Walton Goggins and Mel Gibson. Everyone is pretty good in their own ways, but the clear standouts are definitely Bichir and Gibson who throw off the gloves and just go for it with maniacal, emotionally unhinged performances, which mostly work opposite Trejo’s reserved Machete.
Though the emotionally reserved quality of our protagonist plays well in individual scenes against the surrounding madness, it doesn’t play as well over an entire runtime. Machete is just too stunted to carry the load. His serious face and angry silence are the equivalent of Captain America’s wait-what-is-this-Internet-you-speak-of jokes. A few of them during a film’s runtime work perfectly, but a movie has to get more than that out of its hero. Think of it like one of those Saturday Night Live sketches with a great premise that gets a bunch of laughs early and just sorta keeps going and going and going without breaking any new ground. In retrospect, it’s hard to trash the entire thing since there are great moments, but a film has to be judged in totality, and this one punches the same note too many times.
Machete Kills begins and ends with a trailer for an unshot third installment of the franchise that takes place in space. No doubt Trejo and director Robert Rodriguez are hoping their passion project will do gangbusters at the box office and allow them another twenty million to get goofy. Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s pretty obvious after one trailer and two movies, the character has been played out as far as he should be. That being said, Machete Kills should have a long life on premium cable channels because it will no doubt prove a very popular movie to watch in small doses. I can promise you I’ll never sit down and watch this entire film again, but if it were on Showtime right now, I’d watch Machete scowl at a few people, cut some villains in half and use his bizarre inside-out gun for about a ten minute stretch.