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Video Reviews

Plugged In Rating
Content Caution
MPAA Rating
Credits
Genre
Comedy, Action/Adventure
Cast
Danny Trejo as Machete; Mel Gibson as Voz; Demian Bichir as Mendez; Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio; Michelle Rodriguez as Luz; Sofía Vergara as Desdemona; Charlie Sheen (credited as Carlos Estevez) as President Rathcock; Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Walton Goggins and Cuba Gooding Jr. as El Camaleón 2; Vanessa Hudgens as Cereza
Director
Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, Machete, Shorts, Grindhouse, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D, Sin City, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams, Spy Kids)
Distributor
Open Road Films
In Theaters
October 11, 2013
On Video
January 21, 2014
Reviewer
Paul Asay
Machete Kills

Machete Kills

Machete kills.

Yes, yes, it's the title of the movie. But it's also the plot. The entire plot.

What, you want more?

Well, OK … though most in the Machete Kills audience will forget the sequel story line by the time they reach their cars. I only have a vague recollection of the thing—and I took notes. But I guess I'll give it a shot:

The man known as Machete is now an outside-the-law vigilante, giving what-for to the Mexican drug cartels with Sartana, his girlfriend/vigilante partner from Machete's last movie (creatively titled Machete). Only—oops! Sartana's been shot in the head and dies unceremoniously, and (after a rapid series of near-fatal mishaps) Machete meets with the U.S. president in the White House.

Bad news, the president says. An insane Mexican revolutionary has stolen some sort of massive bomb and has aimed it at Washington, D.C. The president would like Machete to go down and size up the guy—a man named Mendez—and, if necessary, kill him.

If necessary. Right. (What's the name of this movie again?) 

Once Machete gets down there, he sees that things are worse than he thought. Mendez is indeed crazy—so crazy that he's wired a remote missile detonator directly into his heart. If his heart stops, the missile flies. Worse, Mendez is actually made up of three distinct and forever changing personalities: the loco revolutionary, the guilt-addled cartel leader and the frighteningly lethal American double agent. Naturally, at least one of those personalities has a death wish.

Machete's new assignment is to find someone who can defuse Mendez's heart bomb and save D.C. from utter destruction. But his task is made that much harder because crazy-revolutionary Mendez has issued a $10 million bounty on his own head and another $10 million on Machete, just for fun. That means that many, many killers are out to get both of them—including a particularly bad baddie known as the Chameleon and a man-hating brothel owner named Desdemona.

What happens next?

Machete kills.

Positive Elements

We can laud Machete for trying to protect the District of Columbia—and, by extension, stave off a world war. He and his compatriot, Luz (a woman who spends much of her time helping Mexicans sneak into the United States), are clearly trying to do the right thing in this case. "This isn't about Mexico anymore," Luz says. "It's about the world."

And I guess it's refreshing that, in a movie called Machete Kills, Machete actually spends quite a bit of time trying to keep at least one person alive (though the several scores of people whom he hacks to death along the way make me instantly regretful for even bring it up). Do I then also have to praise a onetime enemy of Machete's for saving the vigilante's life—at the expense of his own?

Spiritual Content

The onetime enemy mentioned in the paragraph above is actually a priest now—apparently having had a religious conversion that convinced him his evil, evil ways were leading him nowhere. How evil were his ways? Well, we see a flashback of him from the first movie literally crucifying Machete's priest and mentor in a church.

An icon of the Virgin Mary is seen in the interior of a helicopter. Somebody quips that "even Jesus" couldn't get through the wall separating the United States from Mexico. Somebody else seems to have the ability to see into the future.

Sexual Content

When Machete meets beauty pageant contestant Miss San Antonio, she invites him to have sex with her—apparently wanting to find out if the stories about his sexual prowess are true. As she begins to disrobe, a message saying "put on your 3-D glasses now!" flashes onscreen (though the movie is not shot in 3-D), and the subsequent sex scene is a suggestive but largely indistinguishable mass of overlapping psychedelic colors—with a great deal of sighing and moaning heard in the background.

Machete also must deal with Desdemona, a brothel madam who has trained her employees to kill. They wear various naughty, revealing and sometimes S&M-themed getups, and audiences see Desdemona viciously whipping a man chained to a table as she discusses how her father sexually abused her. She has a brassiere that doubles as a machine gun, another that shoots blades, and a codpiece that morphs into a bullet-firing penis. Her daughter, Cereza, is treasured by Mendez because she's "his virgin."

Characters discuss sex acts, sexual body parts and what they smell like. The Chameleon morphs between male and female disguises. President Rathcock is shown in bed with three women at once. Someone makes a show of averting his eyes when Machete emerges from a bath, then sneaks a peak anyway. The opening credits features silhouettes of apparently naked women (à la the opening sequences in most James Bond movies) and crude, suggestive imagery.

Violent Content

A crooked sheriff tells Machete that he's something of an "overachiever when it comes to killing people." And, indeed, his comment occupies a rare moment of screen time that doesn't feature some sort of bloody death.

Amid the massive mayhem: Machete turns his blade into a low-tech Cuisinart, slicing through an opponent's guts; when the man is still not dead, he throws part of the hapless guy's intestines into a helicopter blade, which then yanks the man up to be further pureed. Machete also uses a grappling hook to attach himself to a helicopter blade, then uses his machete to behead perhaps a dozen dudes as he spins through the air; the heads fly around like popcorn kernels as decapitated bodies spew blood. Machete guns down guys with a futuristic pistol that turns its targets inside out. (The aftermath is bloody and organ-filled.) Machete manages to fire a flamethrower into someone's face, burning much of the man's flesh off. Machete grabs an evildoer while holding onto a live electrical line, allowing the current to go through him and kill his foe. Machete cuts folks in half. Machete severs their limbs. And Machete is not above shooting people in the head. Machete himself hangs from a noose, glaring at a would-be killer. Machete is shot by several bad guys at once (only to be healed in a special healing pool).

There's more. People are vaporized, frozen, thrown out of helicopters, cleaved by cleavers and chopped to bits by boat motors. Their eyes are shot out, their crotches are punched, their necks are broken with whips and their chests are punctured with the points of beauty pageant crowns. One man has his heart removed and kept beating through artificial means. We hear about how a girl bit off her father's testicles and went to school with the gore still stuck in her braces. Cars are crashed. Someone rides a live missile through the atmosphere.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 50 f-words and nearly 20 s-words. We hear "a--," "b--ch," "b--tard," "d--n," "h---" and "p---." God's name is abused close to 10 times—nearly always with "d--n," and Jesus' name is misused once or twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

"Machete don't smoke," Machete says. But several others do—cigars and cigarettes mostly. The president declares he's helped the country by legalizing marijuana in 48 states.

Machete does drink, as do others. We see folks drink shots, down dark liquor, sip wine and guzzle the occasional beer. A waiter is killed via corkscrew by someone concerned that the guy might spill some wine.

Other Negative Elements

Miss San Antonio tells the audience that she's pro-choice, then amends that to say that if people want to choose to eat snow cones, they're more than welcome. A few characters utter extraordinarily racist remarks. A joke is made at the expense of developmentally disabled kids.

Conclusion

Machete Kills feels a little like a grotesque, R-rated Looney Tune. The violence here is truly cartoonish in its excess (if no less gory or bloody or disturbing). And most everything is played for laughs as Spy Kids director Robert Rodriguez pays horrific homage to 1970s splatter-action flicks while exhibiting a Sharknado level of self-aware stupidity.

But Machete Kills is a remarkably smart dumb movie, offering sly nods to everything from 24 to Mad Max to Dr. Strangelove to the original Star Wars trilogy. Rodriguez offers something of a political message, too, deliberately denigrating a wall erected between the U.S. and Mexico and suggesting that the United States is the source of a great many of Mexico's ills.

The main thing to consider here, though (because it's the main thing we see), is the blood, the blood, the blood. This is carnage as comedy, extricated lungs for laughs. Characters and extras are literal punch lines here—and shot lines and stab lines and disembowel lines—offering themselves up as sacrifices on the altar of make a buck at the box office.

The flick features a pair of embedded "trailers" for a proposed third installment: Machete Kills Again … in Space. Ha-ha-funny, right? But the more people watch Machete kill, the more I wonder about the danger of forgetting that violence—real violence—isn't at all a comedic caper.

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