This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 6th October 2013
“The law and justice aren’t always the same thing” warns the beautiful detective moments before a slew of gruesome decapitations and schlock killings plunge us into this latest exploitation flick from Robert Rodriguez. Famously conceived as a fake movie trailer (played before 2007’s Grindhouse), Machete Kills sees Danny Trejo return as the eponymous hero, brought back into law enforcement by the US President (a hilarious Carlos Estevez) to stop an imminent threat against Washington.
If Tarantino was the one to rehabilitate the career of once-great actors, Rodriguez is where the disgraced go to have the last laugh. Estevez (Charlie Sheen, aptly using his birth name) joins a cast list of miscreants and misfits, from Mel Gibson to Jesse James (the adulterous husband of Oscar darling Sandra Bullock) to Lady Gaga, who pretty much acts like she’s in a music video set in the desert, which she almost is.
This is no bad thing. Machete Kills is about bombast and pure entertainment, bathed in a warm, Mexican glow. To its credit, it also showcases considerably stronger female characters than many mainstream Hollywood flicks, even if some of them are coiffed and tanned within an inch of their high heels – Amber Heard (Paranoia) acquits herself particularly well, and Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara puts paid to the likelihood of Salma Hayek ever being called again.
Possibly the coolest thing about this excess of hilariously grotesque violence is that the hero is the least talkative, most unassuming character in the over-the-top bunch – “Machete doesn’t Tweet,” he deadpans – yet we’re all left in no doubt as to who’s boss.