Machete Kills (2013)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 10/11/13
Directed By: Robert Rodriguez
Written By: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Amber Heard, Sofia Vergara, Carlos Estevez (Charlie Sheen), Mel Gibson, cameos by Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas, Lady Gaga, Alexa Vega, Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba, Tom Savini, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, John Paul DeJoria

"Machete Kills" extends the reach of the "Machete" (2010) universe, but suffers as a result. A powerful Mexican cartel gets their hands on a nuclear missile, and the President of the United States (Charlie Sheen) sends former federal agent "Machete" Cortez (grizzled Danny Trejo) on a mission to prevent it from being launched. Naturally, when he meets up with the bad guys, things become much more complicated and Machete has to make a run for the U.S. border with a $10 million bounty on his head. Then the film shifts gears into "Moonraker" (1979) territory as a megalomaniacal Mel Gibson makes plans to destroy the world and flee into space. The film ends on a cliffhanger with Gibson escaping and Machete preparing to follow him.

While it definitely has its moments, there aren't enough of them to support and maintain the tone and pace of the film. All too often, the film suffers from being overly talky, relying on ill-conceived dialog, over-the-top delivery, and gratuitous pop culture references to get a response. In many ways, it reminded me more of a Quentin Tarantino film than a Robert Rodriguez film, which is unfortunate. A more subtle and straight forward approach would have served the film much better. The film also lacks freshness and sincerity, and feels like a rehash of "Once Upon A Time In Mexico" (2003) and "From Dusk Till Dawn" (1996).

Cast wise, Rodriguez has pulled together an amazing group of people. Danny Trejo is wonderful and the supporting cast revels in the crazy plot and their self deprecating roles. Smart and sassy Amber Heard is fabulous, but her normally sexy look is spoiled by unflattering makeup. A sharp looking Michelle Rodriguez returns as Luz and shows up with her team for the final outrageous assault. There are dozens of poorly executed in-jokes and wacky cameos, but the most shocking one is Alexa Vega as a gun-toting prostitute named Killjoy. Wowzers... She's come a long way since "Spy Kids" (2001) and has grown into quite a stunning woman. Antonio Banderas has a humorous cameo as a truck driver who speaks REALLY bad Spanish, and Lady Gaga is, well, Lady Gaga. But the strangest cameo has to be John Paul DeJoria, the face of Paul Mitchell hair care products. I have no idea what he's doing in there.

"Machete Kills" is entertaining and relentlessly outrageous, but would benefit from a tighter and more cohesive script, along with some discipline and restraint from the normally lean and laid back Robert Rodriguez. It's kind of sad when the fake trailer for "Machete Kills Again In Space" is the best part of the film. But if it ever gets made, I'll definitely see it.