Machete Kills is a rare beast indeed, a sequel that manages to surpass its predecessor in pretty much every way. When the rather superb Robert Rodriguez announced that we’d be getting a sequel to his grindhouse-trailer-turned-movie, Machete, I have to say that my heart sank a little. It wasn’t just because the first film had left me a little disappointed after all it promised, but because it seemed like a terrible shame that Rodriguez would choose to make a franchise out of his least impressive feature, while the much yearned for Sin City 2 (and even Predators if you count his hands on approach to producing) was left languishing on the shelf.
So it was with absolute apprehension that I approached Machete Kills, as from the outside it looked to be the same one joke premise, this time substituting one iconic, novelty star for another, so instead of an eighties action legend, now relegated to DTV hell, in Steven Seagal, there was Mel Gibson and instead of quirky pop strumpet Lindsay Lohan, there was Lady Gaga. Yet I couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite an all too familiar and un-engaging opening act, things suddenly step up a gear and this time every element seems to click.
It may sound like a ridiculous thing to say when discussing a prime piece of grindhouse action, but it helps that the story element in Machete Kills is that bit more engaging, helping to entertain viewers above the cheap thrill of just watching endless bad guys being sliced and diced in more inventive and hysterical ways, even if that story is utterly bonkers. Somehow the jokes are funnier, the action more entertaining and the novelty casting works to make it a better film, rather than distract from it.
As with previous outings by Rodriguez and long-time chum, Quentin Tarantino, the casting serves as a grounding reminder how fast Hollywood churns through some of its finest talent and then pushes them to one side. Over the years Rodriguez alone has made the most of being able to cast his cinematic heroes from the decades that shaped his own taste and style. In Planet Terror there was the joyous sight of seeing, amongst others, Michael Biehn and Jeff Fahey centre stage and in Machete Kills there’s movie geek delights such as the ever glorious William Sadler, Charlie Sheen (here credited under his birth name of Carlos Estevez), Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr. and of course Mel Gibson.
More’s the pity that, for many people, so much of Gibson’s appearance will be mired by his own personal life and the controversies that it’s caused but, looking past that, his performance is a well overdue reminder of how great he can be and how much fun he can bring to such an over the top premise with his superb comic timing. I was certainly concerned that Gibson might have chosen to dial in his performance after his last few films sank without a trace, but there’s a real sense of the old spark driving his villainous turn, that lifts the film as a whole and makes me even more excited for his involvement in The Expendables 3, as it means there’s at least one more chance for some of his maniacal magic in a big screen action movie.
The Blu-ray version of the film looks amazing, as most attempts at smothering the film in a fake old film stock filter have been forgotten, with Rodriguez leaving the film’s roots in grindhouse to remind you what kind of genre flick you’re watching. In terms of extras there’s surprisingly little sadly, there’s not even the traditional cooking school lesson, which seems odd.
The features consist of ‘If Carlos Esteves were President’, which is a great idea – ask Charlie what he’d do in control of the free world, but only lasts a minute, so don’t get excited if you’re expecting another ‘tiger blood’ diatribe from the Ma-Sheen. Still ‘Nude Tuesdays’ is inspired. There’s also ‘Six Degrees of Robert Rodriguez’ which focuses on his loyalty and support of Latin actors, a fascinating subject but only last for less than three minutes. There’s also fourteen cast and crew interviews that last for just over half an hour, with each person given only a couple of minutes each. Boo.
Still there’s so much to enjoy in Machete Kills, from the endlessly sublime acting talent, to the constant attempts to find different ways of dismembering bad guys, while the introduction of a science fiction element makes you wish that every film ended like Kills does. So if you’re in two minds as to whether to pick up Machete Kills, consider this – the world at large needs Machete Kills Again… in Space to be made and if you look deep down inside, I’m sure you do too. So don’t concern yourself with how many times you think you’ll re-watch it, or even how much you’ll love it’s sleazy insanity, think of it as sponsoring Machete in Space and, in the process, making the world a better place.
For more on the action side of Machete Kills, you can find it in our list of underappreciated action films from last year.
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