Machete began life as an admittedly hilarious fake trailer in Grindhouse, the response to it was so positive that Robert Rodriguez soon decided to expand it into a full length film. Despite generating a middling response, that film has now spawned a sequel, which begs the question, is the sequel-happy Rodriguez stretching this joke too far?
In keeping with its origins, Machete Kills itself begins for a fake trailer for a (currently) non-existent third instalment, now titled Machete Kills Again…In Space! This gives you an immediate indication of a) where the plot of this film is actually going to venture, and b) how seriously it’s going to take itself.
While the first Machete was enjoyably trashy, it felt a little hampered by a couple of things; firstly, having to fit all of the footage from the fake trailer in, which at times appeared to necessitate the creation of scenes that wouldn’t have been there otherwise, and secondly, making the primary plot of the film revolve around the actually rather serious issue of immigration. Machete Kills keeps the trashy tone, but does away with even the slightest pretension of importance, and that’s to it’s advantage.
After witnessing his partner murdered, Danny Trejo’s ex-Federale is captured by a racist sheriff, but then bailed out by the president himself, who sends Machete back to Mexico to find a drug kingpin with a missile aimed at Washington D.C., supplied to him by a sci-fi obsessed supervillain.
While still drawing inspiration from the exploitation films that led to Grindhouse, note the obviously (deliberate?) poor special effects that accompany many of the slayings, Machete Kills is not just an exploitation throwback. Its other forerunner is, (perhaps not quite as surprising as one might first think, especially considering the original’s “Machete will return” credits promise), Roger Moore era James Bond, specifically Moonraker.
Machete Kills keeps all of the ludicrous elements of the original intact, occasionally topping them but sometimes feeling a little repetitive too. This similarly boasts a bafflingly eclectic cast, with some returning faces and some new ones, including Demián Bichir as a deranged terrorist, Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara having a (literal) blast as a machine-gun-bra sporting Madame, and a hitman called El Chameleón played by Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, and Lady Gaga (!). Add to this knowing appearances from ‘Carlos Estévez’ as the president and Mel Gibson as the madman villain and you have one of the oddest casts in recent memory.
It’s hard to call Machete Kills ‘good’ film by any stretch, but it’s never trying to be one, only to be a burst of ridiculous, over-the-top fun for an hour and a half, and it just about manages to be that. It is a mild improvement on its predecessor but still doesn’t really justify turning this joke trailer into a film series, I’m sure Machete Kills could be also edited down into a 2-3-minute trailer that would be far funnier than the film is as a whole.