I really liked the first Machete movie. I liked Danny Trejo as a bitter ex-Federale, unleashing bloody and creative retribution on racists and Minutemen. I liked Michelle Rodriguez as the foxy leader of a network of undocumented immigrants. I liked the scene where Machete rips out a man's intestines and uses them to rappel down the side of a building. And, uh... I liked its politics. For a movie based on a fake Grindhouse trailer, it was fun, silly, over the top, and way better than it should have been.
But the new sequel Machete Kills is not fun. Machete Kills is long and tedious, and it recycles its gags with the relentless, tone-deaf insistence of a bad comedian repeating a punch line because he doesn't think you got the joke.
I'm not gonna bother with the plot; suffice to say that it's entirely too convoluted, and it involves missiles pointed at Washington, a "Mexican standoff" (sigh), a two-faced beauty queen, a beating heart that must be kept alive, murderous clones, President Charlie Sheen, not nearly enough Michelle Rodriguez (I might love her?), and mad-scientist Mel Gibson in a tiny cape.
There's a fun bit featuring a character called "The Chameleon," a face-changing assassin played by Cuba Gooding Jr, Lady Gaga, and others. And there's a man-hating prostitute who packs weaponry in both her metal bra and her strap-on—I can kind of get behind that. Overall, though, the laugh lines are strained and clunky ("You fucked him up like a special ed science fair project"; "Machete happens") and even the violence has a certain rote quality—I lost track of how many men were killed by helicopter blade. In Machete, we learned that "Machete don't text"; in Machete Kills, we're informed that he neither tweets nor jokes. There's a grim, stoic quality to Trejo's performance here; he does not seem to be enjoying himself.) There's even a retread of the first movie’s intestine scene—like there aren’t any other body parts that could feature creatively in death scenes? How about a rib cage? Hamstrings?
The film spent about a third of its run time moving pieces around to set up a third film, Machete Kills Again… In Space; but since it totally bombed at the box office, it's unlikely we'll get to see what Machete gets up to in zero gravity. (Speaking of... Gravity, right??) The best thing I can say about Machete Kills is that the entire row full of high school-age boys in front of me at the theater on Friday afternoon seemed to really enjoy it. I, on the other hand, would have rather been back at the office fielding press releases from local theater companies. Adjust your expectations accordingly.