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October 10, 2013

Film + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


Isador Cortez, a.k.a. Machete, always had Danny Trejo’s face since his first cameo in Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids (2001), and has always been portrayed as an over-the-top caricature of the infallible action hero. His first sporadic appearances in different films were intended as Easter eggs and nod to the fans: the best known reference of all is the fake trailer included in Grindhouse (2007), by Tarantino and Rodriguez himself. It took Quentin’s genius (but most of all his reputation) to raise the funds for a project that had been their forbidden desire for a long time: a so called “b-movie”, a low-budget exploitation film as in fashion in the ‘70s. Rodriguez jumped at the chance to give depth and notoriety to Machete, laying the foundations for what would later become the 2010 feature “Machete”, a critical, public and box office success.

Former Mexican Federal Machete is a living legend, a die-hard incorruptible law man, whose face is scarred by violence and whose soul is scarred by death and suffering. Armed with his inseparable and lethal machete, he is the perfect war machine that every villain fears but invariably tries (and fails) to kill. This time, his nemesis is Luther Voz (Mel Gibson), orchestrating an intricate plan to threaten humanity. Machete, personally hired by the funkiest President of the United States ever (a brilliant Carlos Estevez, a.k.a. Charlie Sheen, typecasted straight from his previous roles in the “Scary Movie” saga), must travel across Central America to save the day. Alongside him, a number of disreputable characters follow one another while the plot unfolds. Enter hot secret agent Miss San Antonio, Vanessa Hudgens playing the prostitute, Mendez the Madman and his split personality, his bodyguard, corrupt Sheriff Doakes, Shè, coming back with a bunch of guys from the previous film – and then this hitman, el Camaleòn, who is actually four different people! Seriously? That’s way too many characters for me to care about, especially given the standard of the film, in which everything is a farce built for Machete to destroy – while possibly maiming some limbs.


Away from the dusty and western-like setting of the first chapter, Rodriguez shapes “Machete Kills” in a way that reminds me a bit of James Bond, and too much of “Expendables”. Rather unfortunate, for a film that tries hard to be cool, but ends up looking like any other average action feature. It is this strange ambivalence that makes “Machete Kills” hard to appreciate fully: a few scenes are memorable, and some are pure works of genius, but the uniqueness of a character like Machete is game-changing, and it soon becomes clear that he doesn’t fit the genre’s standards. His invincibile and illogic nature is the elephant in the room that makes everything else pointless. “Machete Kills” attracts its audience with promises of absurdities, silliness, and gratuitous gore; all this aside, it feels just like a 2-hour long cartoon, or an ice cream with a dozen scoops. After a while, you just get tired. That’s not to say that the film isn’t worth the ticket price: when written wisely, its episodic gags make the whole cinema laugh out loud, and the fake trailer for “Machete Kills Again… In Space” is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in the last ten years. This is why Machete remains one of the cult icons of modern cinema, and just as I am ready to point out all the film’s weaknesses, I’m also impatiently waiting for the next sequel.

“Machete Kills” is released in UK cinemas on Friday, October 11th.

Davide Prevarin