The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Machete Kills

Machete Kills begins with a fake coming attractions reel that showcases another sequel, Machete Kills Space. The over-the-top trailer, presented in ultra-grainy, heavily-spliced fashion, made me roll my eyes. You may recall that Machete began as just such a fake trailer in the movie Grindhouse. Then director Robert Rodriguez decided to turn it into a real film. It was a funny joke once, but by now, it's completely played out. Like a party guest who just won't leave, Machete has worn out his welcome, and it's time for him to make like a tree and get out of here, as Biff from Back to the Future would say.

Danny Trejo returns as Machete. This time, the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen, credited under his birth name of Carlos Estevez) asks him to team up with a beauty pageant contestant (Amber Heard) to stop a Mexican revolutionary (Demian Bichir) with split personality disorder. Machete tracks the guy down, only to learn that his heart is hooked up to an arms system. If his heart stops beating, missiles will be launched at Washington, D.C. The only way to prevent this from happening is to find the madman behind the whole cockamamie scheme. He is Voz (Mel Gibson), a megalomaniacal arms dealer. Meanwhile, a host of people are trying to kill Machete, including a madam with a Gatling gun brassiere (Sofia Vergara) and a mercenary known as the Chameleon (Lady Gaga). Michelle Rodriguez also returns to the series as taco truck driver/freedom fighter Luz, who again helps Machete at a critical moment.

From its opening seconds, Machete Kills feels late to the party. The whole spoofing of grindhouse exploitation flicks has, by now, been done to death, in everything from Grindhouse to Piranha 3D to Hobo With a Shotgun. If there's anything new to do with that idea, this movie doesn't find it. We've seen the simulated scratches on the print, the mocking of low-budget aesthetics, and the ridiculously over-the-top action sequences before. They've lost their punch, at least when presented as lackadaisically as they are here. Even an admirably diverse and kooky cast can't pump new life into them.

Had it been released six years ago, Machete Kills still wouldn't have played any better. It is, bottom line, a badly made movie. The plot is all over the map, constantly introducing new characters who barely tie into the already-existing characters, and so half-baked that it becomes impossible to follow. (In fairness, I may have also mentally checked out at some point.) Director Rodriguez additionally gets caught in the trap of trying to have his cake and eat it, too. In spots, Machete Kills seems to want to be taken seriously as an action picture. Then it turns around and does something completely absurd like flashing an on-screen notice to put on 3D glasses, even though the film is not in 3D - as though it's going strictly for zany Airplane!-style comedy. None of it works. The action is familiar, the comedy unfunny.

Machete Kills closes exactly as it began with a preview of Machete Kills Space. There's our boy Machete in a spaceship, stuck in the middle of a Star Wars parody. It was here that I realized something very depressing. The fake preview, which made me roll my eyes at the start, was actually the wittiest, most entertaining part of the movie. Machete does, indeed, kill. This time around, he also sucks.

( out of four)

Machete Kills is rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 47 minutes.

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