Vengeance never dies, it only changes targets.
Dir. Robert Rodriguez
Runtime: 108 minutes
Starring: Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba, Sofia Vergara, Demián Bichir, Tom Savini, Carlos Estévez
Machete is back!! Well to be honest he didn’t actually go away. The may have been 3 years between the films in real world time. In film time however, the events of “Machete Kills” take place not that long after the events we witnessed in the first “Machete” film back in 2010. Robert Rodriguez is once again in the saddle as director, and again he is working with Danny Trejo as the titular character Machete Cortez, who Rodriguez conceived while on the set of “Desperado” (1995). But you already know that don’t you? You read my previous review on the first film didn’t you, you clever devil. That means I can skip explaining the history of the character, I don’t need to mention “Grindhouse”, I don’t even need to tell you what happened in the last film either that led up to this point. Great, that’ll make this easier. Thanks for that (NOTE: If you didn’t read my review of the first “Machete” film, just click the link.)
Machete and Agent Sartana Rivera (Trejo and Jessica Alba) are trying to bring down a weapons dealer that has been supplying Mexican drug cartels with enough hardware to make them trouble. Trouble walks in – well, figuratively. A great big gunfight ensues which gets Sartana murdered and Machete arrested. He is captured by the corrupt Sheriff Doakes (William Sadler) and Deputy Clebourne (Samuel Davies). They intend hanging Machete (although I’m sure Machete would say “Machete is already hung“, or “Machete don’t do hanging around“.), but US President Rathcock (Charles Sheen, appearing by his birthname – Carlos Estévez) intervenes with an offer of work. He’ll give Machete freedom and American citizenship, but he wants Machete to go after Marcos Mendez (Demián Bichir) to stop him launching a nuclear strike on Washington D.C.
Machete begins his mission in San Antonio where he meets his handler Blanca Vasquez (Amber Heard) who directs him to Acapulco where he meets Cereza (Vanessa Hudgens) who can point him in the right direction. Cereza’s mother, Madame Desdemona (Sofia Vergara), tries to kill Machete but fails, and they are able to get away. Cereza’s takes Machete to Zaror (Marko Zaror) who knows where Mendez’s base of operations is.
At this point trouble once again begins circling around Machete. Cereza’s life is endangered; Machete learns about Mendez’s bomb trigger; he is hunted by Madame Desdemona and her prostitute assassins; hunted by a shape-shifting hit-man called El Camaleón; and hunted by Sheriff Doakes too. That’s all before he even meets Luther Voz (Mel Gibson) – a psychopathic megalomaniac intent on changing the world and making a new history. Thankfully, Machete can rely on Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) for help, and she’s brought further support in the shape of Machete’s old foe, Osiris Amanpour (Tom Savini). Things are going to get messy!
A lot of the cast from the first Machete film were happy to sign up and return for this film, but the addition of new faces really helped to keep things fresh. It was nice to see Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, and the likes of Tom Savini again; but it was equally nice seeing Sofia Vergara, Demián Bichir, Vanessa Hudgens, and of course, señor Carlos Estévez. It was interesting seeing Alexa PenaVega in this as she played next to a different version of Machete in the “Spy Kids” films (2001 – 2011). It was still Danny Trejo, but the target audience would have been completely different.
Like the first film, the acting is often camp and cheesy, but intentionally so. Danny Trejo does well again as the unkillable Machete, the ex-Federal Agent who should not be crossed. I really enjoyed all the acting the performances in the film, but one that really caught my eye was Mel Gibson as the cartoon villain who really turned on the cheesiness for his performance. The use of a shape-shifting assassin was a good way to bring different faces to the film who might not have been able to commit much screen time, but which also helped make a unique character for this film type. El Chameleón was played by a few different people; Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr. Lady Gaga, and Antonio Banderas.
The story itself, was not that complex, much like the first film, and like that too, the action, the violence, the absurdity – it was all there again, it was still dumb and over the top with buckets of blood and plenty of sexualisation. It still felt like an intentionally bad (M)exploitation film. This time though, it went that little bit further. Instead of just being a homage to grind-house films, it almost feels like a full-on B-Movie that is not too far detached from the latest in the “Sharknado” series for example. There are plenty of pop culture references including: “Star Wars”, “Mad Max”, “Moonraker”, “From Dusk till Dawn”, and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” – but such blatant references weren’t used as much in the first film. So maybe it’s that which cheapened the experience for me a little. The first film was unapologetic, whereas this second one is a little bit more SyFy channel. It tries to outdo itself, and sometimes goes a little bit too far.
It’s fair to say that I enjoyed the first film more than this sequel. It is not because this sequel is terrible; it is still insane and awesome in a weird kind of way. It is just nothing new. The shock and excitement that the Machete character brought in the “Planet Terror” (2007) segment was new and exciting. The feature length film in 2010 – it was full length goodness and still fairly new and exciting. This sequel doesn’t really bring anything new to the party, it just extends the duration of the party by another hour and half.
I remember watching this film back in 2013 and the first time around, I enjoyed it a lot, that’s despite it not being anything new. After rewatching this again in 2021, some 8 years later, it didn’t fill me with the same joy as before. I don’t think it’s just because I am getting older, I think that the film lacks any depth and longevity. Some films are easy to go back to time and time again. They might not be cult films or masterpiece classics, but they feel comfortable to rewatch. This film is more a case of watch it once to say you have watched it, then just put it on a shelf. I guess, much like the majority of grind-house films that were pumped out between the 1960’s and 1980’s, this is more akin to a throwaway title that’s just intended to extend the life-cycle of the title that little bit more.
With hints to “Machete Kills Again… in Space” mentioned during the end credits – which I am sure is a comedic parody. Is this the end of the road for Machete? Or can Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo spark new life into it and bring us something new and exciting again in the next few years?