I loved Robert Rodriguez’s 2010 film Machete. It’s violent, dirty, funny, and a cool homage to cheap exploitation cinema. Machete has a place in my Blu-ray collection and I’ve watched it numerous times. So when I say I have been excited for Machete Kills ever since I first heard about it, you should believe me. I was ready to sit back and revel in the mayhem that was sure to grace the screen. To turn a phrase, I came here to praise Machete (Danny Trejo) – not to bury him. Unfortunately, I just can’t.
Machete was a bad movie done very well. Machete Kills is mostly just a bad movie. It has all of the parts the original did — the over-the-top violence, the numerous cameo roles, the ridiculous plot scenarios. But something’s just not right about it. Something is missing. It tries to pull off the same, “We’re deliberately making a bad movie because we love those old drive-in B-movies” vibe that made Grindhouse and Machete so fun, but it never gets there. Machete Kills loses the homage-to-bad-movies feel and ultimately crosses the line into spoof territory. This is more Hot Shots than Grindhouse. This is Machete as a comic book character, rather than just one tough hombre. He’s gone full Superman here — nothing can kill him. This Machete belongs in the kid’s toy section next to the Robocop and Predator action figures that somehow crossed over from R-rated movies to Saturday morning cartoons.
Machete Kills does what most sequels are guilty of. It takes all of the things that people said they loved about the original and tries to turn them all up a notch. “Oh you liked the graphic violence of the first movie, we can do even more. You liked the hot girls who go for Machete, we can get even more of those. You enjoyed Machete making jokes about texting, now we can have him make jokes about tweeting.” It all becomes too much.
Machete Kills never feels cheap and dirty like the original. There’s too much polish here; it looks too good. Sure the sets look cheesy, but this is obviously expensive nice cheese — the kind you have to go buy from the gourmet store, not big blocks of yellow stuff you get at Aldi. It feels like Rodriguez really just wanted to make Machete Kills an action comedy but has to keep stopping to remind the audience that, “Oh wait this is also supposed to bad on purpose even though my heart’s not really into that idea anymore.”
So what happens is Machete Kills ends up feeling like it belongs along side things like the Scary Movie franchise, or Not Another Teen Movie-type stuff. I guess for most of the audience I saw the movie with, the move to full-on comedy was good enough. There were plenty of people laughing as I found myself growing more and more bored by the whole thing.
I haven’t even addressed Machete Kills’ biggest sin; one of the most baffling decisions I can remember for a long long time. This probably qualifies as a very tiny SPOLIER, so fair warning.
We’ve moved from Machete the low-budget movie that loves low-budget movies to Machete the franchise. Machete Kills opens with a trailer for the next Machete movie. It then proceeds to spend the next hour and forty plus minutes taking us directly to the starting point for that movie. The whole thing ends up just being a set-up for a 3rd installment. The entire third act of Machete Kills has exactly zero surprises because we know exactly where it’s heading. It takes what’s already a pretty lifeless movie and just kills any fun that could have been had by keeping a few secrets. It’s one of the worst cinematic decisions I can ever remember.
I was so excited for the potential of continuing the Machete character and universe. Now I just wish this never would have happened. I’m sure plenty of people will find some fun in Machete Kills, but I’m certainly not one of them.