It is with no hesitation that I say Machete Kills a fun movie. It absolutely, unequivocally knocks it out of the park in the fun department. With a central character as absurd as Machete is, and with a colorful, screwy cast of supporting types doing all manner of crazy things at every turn, it is hard not to have a heap-load of fun with it. I mean, Charlie Sheen (excuse me, Carlos Estevez) plays the President of the United States fer cryin out loud, how could you not have fun?
So that hits the mark in every way possible. The bombastic, often silly over-the-topness of the action and bloody violence (not one but two ways you can kill a person with a helicopter are explored) are very enjoyable if you’re in the right frame of mind. However, it is the spaces in-between those crazed set pieces and outlandish set ups that leave something to be desired.
One of my all time favorite Robert Rodriguez films is From Dusk Til Dawn: from the music to the crime-caper-into-monster-movie switcheroo to the effects to the incredible production design and all else, that movie is just aces. Part of what makes it great, though, is the central character(s) being somewhat of this earth and of this life. While the Gekko brothers might be hardened criminals (and in Richie’s case, nuts) they are also people who could/might be normal in some capacity or other. Same can be said of Jacob (Harvey Keitel) and his family. On the other hand, Machete is a folk hero/fantasy figure not of this earth. While that lends itself wholly to the feel of the thing, not having a real human from which to work outwardly makes finding the center of Machete Kills (from a character standpoint) a tough job. They just aren’t people you can anchor to because they just aren’t people to start with and that is a challenge as a viewer.
And maybe that is okay in a bloody, cartoonish type of film like this – maybe you don’t need grounded human characters to give the audience that deeper anchor. Maybe the moral story and thematic ideas matter more. Maybe you can get after an important discussion about a real topic by wrapping it in crazed violence and wacky dialogue (I cheered at the Sophia Vergara reference to Cheech Marin’s monologue from From Dusk Til Dawn in one scene, for example) and get the message across that way.
I don’t have any interest whatsoever in debating out one of the shining triumphs of the film which is its commentary on immigration policy in the United States. I have my opinions on the matter (which aren’t important here) but it was really nice to see it be a presented issue of importance amidst the backdrop of all the wacky action and bloody vengeance carried out by a profoundly cool if not one-dimensional character like Machete.
All in all, it was fun, over-the-top and funny and worth seeing and enjoying exactly for what it is and what you’re given on-screen and not what your expectations coming into it might be.