The first half of Machete Kills is a killer comedy with cartoon violence -- and Charlie Sheen as the president of the United States.
The second half of Machete Kills is a D.O.A. dilemma with more of the same repetitive action, violence and lame jokes -- plus Mel Gibson as the uber-villain.
What that means is that Robert Rodriguez's Machete sequel is half-assed -- not quite as good as the 2010 original nor quite as bad as most cheapo genre sequels.
The best thing about both Machete and Machete Kills is Danny Trejo, who plays the title character in these Mexploitation flicks. Machete the man is a Mexican-American outlaw of justice. But he can and will kill mercilessly with gun, fist, blunt instrument or (of course) his trusty machete blade when the really horrible bad guys get out of line.
Trejo's grim-eyed, craggy-faced, world-weary character in the Machete movies is not much different from the ruthless outlaw he plays in Dead in Tombstone -- or from the Machete character he first teased out in the Rodriguez-Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse. Trejo, a former real-life convict and drug addict, now channels his desperado into the creative arts for our amusement.
For most of Machete Kills, Trejo is amusing. And incredibly agile and physical and formidable for a dude who is now 69 years old.
The problem with the movie is the way Rodriguez handles the aimless plot he concocted with brother Marcel Rodriguez and screenwriter Kyle Ward. In the first half, it all seems fun, especially with Sheen introduced as first-time actor "Carlos Estevez" in the role of the president. In the second half, Rodriguez bores us silly.
Sheen (or Carlos Estevez, his real birth name) blackmails Trejo into a top secret mission. Our anti-hero has to track down and eliminate a Mexican drug lord who is causing havoc and threatening the free world with a weapon of mass destruction.
Meanwhile, there is plenty of sex-and-violence, including a bordello madam (Sofia Vergara) who dispatches her enemies with machine guns mounted in her leather-and-steel brassiere. Don't mess with her.
Along the way, Trejo's Machete works with or against a rogues gallery of actors playing stereotypes. Jessica Alba does an uncredited and brief reprise of her role from the original Machete movie. In the sequel, we also get Michelle Rodriguez (no relation to the filmmakers) returning as Luz, along with the introduction of Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Alexa Vega, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens and even sexy singer Lady Gaga. They are all spilling over in various roles large and small. Too bad we are also exposed to a puffy-looking Gibson in the final act, especially with his over-acting and general idiocy.
Ahhh, but that's the rub, we are forced to watch this play out to the bitter end. Like Machete, Machete Kills is actually better as a trailer than it is as a full-blown movie. Ditto for the trailer that Rodriguez offers us in the new movie. Machete Kills Again ... in Space is funny as an idea. Just don't let Rodriguez make it into another feature-length failure.