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Article by Teddy Durgin

Machete Wields a Dull Blade

The first "Machete" was a glorious send-up to the cheapie, B-movie exploitation action flicks of the 1970s and '80s. Danny Trejo starred as the title character, an enigmatic Mexican folk legend who walked softly and carried a very big blade as he fought corruption on both sides of the border. Director Robert Rodriguez's new sequel, "Machete Kills," stretches the concept too thin. It runs out of B-movie cliches fast, then becomes a meandering in-joke that rather oddly tries to rip off the Roger Moore-era James Bond films. Like those 007 flicks, this one finds the hero taking on a megalomaniacal villain (a scenery-chewing Mel Gibson) trying to inflict global thermonuclear war on the Earth to start a new world order in space. The film is a follow-up, a send-up, and a shoot-'em-up all rolled into one. Too bad it's also a screw-up. The main problem is actually Trejo's Machete Cortez. He's just not very interesting in this film. He practically lumbers through it like a south-of-the-border Jason Voorhees. Like Jason, he carries a massive blade, barely says anything for the entire movie, has very little in the way of motivation, and is pretty much indestructible - which renders all of his action scenes completely tension-free. At one point, a crooked sheriff (William Sadler) hangs him and Machete just swings there looking at the man. At another point, he is shot repeatedly at close range and is miraculously recovered two scenes later. Rodriguez is clearly aware of the actor and the character's limitations. So, to his credit, he surrounds him with some extremely colorful supporting characters played by big names. I do admire some of the go-for-broke performances here, especially those cast members playing against type like Sofia Vergara as a man-hating madam with a bra and panties that double as firearms (even the bra bit was first done in "Austin Powers" and the underpants gag was lifted right from Rodriguez's own "Desperado"). Charlie Sheen (acting for the first time under his real name, Carlos Estevez) hams it up as the U.S. President who won his last election on a platform of gun rights and legalized marijuana. I also liked Demian Bichir as a drug cartel kingpin suffering from a split personality. Best of all, Rodriguez successfully works in a face-changing assassin named The Chameleon who is well-drawn enough to be played by everyone from Antonio Banderas to Cuba Gooding Jr. to Lady Gaga. Unfortunately, at nearly two hours, there just aren't enough gags to support this concept as a second feature. Not at today's theater prices. A few chuckles, some fine cleavage, but that's about it. Machete Disappoints.

"Machete Kills" is rated R for strong bloody violence, language and some sexual content.


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