Robert Rodriguez is like that friend who loves to tell jokes, but always goes on and on, well past the punch line.
Remember how he beat the living daylights out of his “Spy Kids” franchise? That’s what he’s working toward with “Machete.” We saw the trailer in “Grindhouse” — for the thriller about the avenging, hacking and cutting Mexican, played by the comically scary-looking Danny Trejo. We got a few laughs out of the actual 2010 movie, a satire released at the height of the immigration reform debate.
We get it.
But here Robert R. is again with “Machete Kills,” another and — if possible — more ground-up grindhouse picture, a fitfully amusing bloodbath sandwiched between two new trailers for the “next” Machete adventure. The ideas are all gone by the 45-minute mark of this movie, and he’s advertising (hopefully, just a joke) yet another picture in the series.
It’s great that the leading Texican director built this vehicle for the ex-con character actor with the long hair, the tattoos and the face that stopped a thousand fists. Trejo, playing a Mexican agent bent on preventing various bad-faith American actions that destabilize Mexico, is an amusing lump that these movies seem to sort of happen around. Except when he’s slinging his catch phrases.
“Machete don’t smoke.” “Machete don’t joke.” “Machete don’t fail.” And “Machete don’t die.”
That last one comes in handy as he survives hanging at the hands of a racist Arizona sheriff (William Sandler), the trigger-happy minions of a drug lord (Demian Bichir, vamping it up through “multiple personalities”), and an assassin named “El Cameleon” played by Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas and Lady Gaga, among others.
And Mel Gibson, doing a Bond villain, joins Michelle Rodriguez, playing Machete’s sidekick again, and Carlos Estevez as the U.S. president. (For those who don’t know, Estevez is Charlie Sheen.) No, there’s no Lindsay Lohan this time around. Rodriguez was over his quota of actors behaving badly.
Amber Heard tries out her Spanish as an American agent, and the absurdly overripe Sofia Vergara steals the picture as an armed and dangerous Mexican madam, mad because Machete has borrowed one of her “girls” (Vanessa Hudgens).
Speaking of “Spy Kids,” longtime Rodriguez fans may recognize one-time “Kid” Alexa Vega as an armed hooker in halter top and butt-less chaps. Yeah, Robert R.’s been quite the positive influence.
The acting’s bad, sort of on purpose. The script is ridiculous, also on purpose. And the funniest bits are for the “next” installment in the series, which looks too awful to commit to film.
Too bad Rodriguez burns through a better title for that next one by giving Machete one too many catch-phrases.