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Movie review: ‘Machete Kills’

Machete Kills

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Danny Trejo, Charlie Sheen, Sofia Vergara

Rated: R (strong bloody violence throughout, strong language, some sexual content)

Running time: 107 min.

Posted 9:33pm on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013

Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills sails so far over the top all you can do is hang on for the ride.

Showing remarkable gusto for a concept that’s spawned a pair of fake trailers and a feature-length film, Machete Kills pushes the exploitation homage out of the grindhouse and into the looney bin — perhaps the next sequel (and, yes, there’s a fake trailer for the next installment of the murderous Machete’s adventures right up front) will just be a literal cartoon, given the trajectory of this episode.

Danny Trejo returns as the taciturn, catchphrase-growling (“Machete don’t [fill in the blank]”) protagonist, who is up to his neck in governmental intrigue before 10 minutes have elapsed. (If you’re fuzzy on the details of 2010’s Machete, don’t worry: the previous film is referenced only briefly, and doesn’t really affect events here.)

Tasked by President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen, credited under his real name, Carlos Estevez) with stopping a Mexico-based missile from launching and wiping out Washington D.C., Machete finds himself battling crazed thug Mendez (a terrifically unhinged Demian Bichir) and violent madam Desdemona (Sofia Vergara, light years away from Modern Family) in an effort to prevent global war.

A mysterious assassin called the Chameleon pops up — in one of the movie’s loopier conceits, the killer shifts identities; would you believe Cuba Gooding Jr. into Lady Gaga? — and Machete is forced to reconnect with revolutionary Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) in order to save the day.

Oh, and Mel Gibson plays Voz, the real heavy, whose plans for intergalactic domination — oh, never mind. On paper it sounds even dumber than it is on screen.

Rodriguez and his brother, Marcel, are credited with the story while Kyle Ward takes screenplay credit. Less a coherent narrative than a series of “hey, let’s try this” sequences stitched together in roughly chronological order, Machete Kills pays brief lip service to the ideas of border security and Mexican identity.

But grand philosophical statements have a way of evaporating when a man’s intestines are being used to pull him up into a helicopter’s whirling blades. In a way, that Rodriguez and his collaborators would use such real world issues as a springboard for gore-splattered goofing is almost more offensive than the carnage itself — why go there at all, unless you have a semi-serious point you want to make?

Of course, no one goes to a film like Machete Kills and expects a reasoned treatise on U.S./Mexico relations — they want to see snappy quips, inventive deaths and stars slumming it. On those counts, Rodriguez and company deliver .

Trejo anchors the film with his menacing presence, as Bichir, Vergara and Gibson tear into their roles like starving dogs upon steak. (In particular, Bichir looks like he’s having the time of his life.) Even Lady Gaga, who appears for all of five minutes, seems to be enjoying driving recklessly and firing a gun, while snarling threats.

Machete Kills concludes like something out of another Rodriguez franchise, Spy Kids, and as if stumbling from an amusement park roller coaster, you’re left dizzy, amused and a little nauseated.

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