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Gazette Premium Content MOVIE REVIEW: 'Machete Kills' is brainless, bloody comic-book fun

by Joe Gross Austin American-Statesman - Published: October 10, 2013

Starring Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlie Sheen, Sofia Vergara; directed by Robert Rodriguez; running time is 1 hour, 47 minutes; rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language and some sexual content. Grade: B-

"Machete kills," U.S. President Rathcock says during, um, "Machete Kills." "That's what he does." So, no false advertising here, folks.

Say what you will about junky genre pictures with leaps in logic, ultra-violence and one impossible thing after another - such movies harness cinema's more overwhelming qualities better than most well-meaning indie flicks about things like "real people" and "relationships." But don't go to Robert Rodriguez's "Machete Kills" expecting deep thoughts on anything. At all.

Shot in 29 days with an I-suppose-it-counts-as-a-script by Kyle Ward from a story by Rodriguez, "Machete Kills" stars the always-entertaining Danny Trejo as the titular ex-Federale and "enemy of the cartels." The second movie in the series (which sprang from a fake trailer that Rodriguez cut for his movie "Grindhouse") follows the man, with the giant knife on a mission on behalf of the American government.

After a rough ambush, Machete is saved from lynching down South by a timely phone call from Rathcock (Carlos Estevez, otherwise known as Charlie Sheen), who needs the man who "IS Mexico," as the president puts it, to stop a Mexican madman with a bomb.

Said madman is named Mendez, played by Mexican actor Demian Bichir, who is best known to American audiences for his terrific turn as Juarez police detective Marco Ruiz in the FX TV program "The Bridge." Bichir, all squints and rat-like faces, nearly scampers away with "Machete Kills." Revolutionary sometimes, violent lunatic other times, spy now and then, Bichir's Mendez is the over-the-toppiest thing in a movie that can barely see the top from its altitude.

Things explode, heads are removed and mayhem ensues. Also, a guy in a business suit and a Mexican wrestling mask shoots a laser gun, so you can check that off your cinematic bucket list.

There's a vaguely political subplot about the war on drugs in "Machete Kills," but the movie's overall cartoonishness makes its predecessor look like "Schindler's List." Look for Amber Heard as Miss San Antonio, Machete's government handler (as it were); Sof? Vergara as a deadly brothel madam (is there any other kind?); and cameos by Cuba Gooding Jr., Walt Goggins and Lady Gaga.

And yes, that is "Spy Kids" star Alexa Vega as one of the hookers. She is 25 now, but it is still a little weird to see her up there.

What is most fun about "Machete Kills" is its sense of itself. It is the most comic-booky movie you will see this year, far more so than the superhero fare that takes its own plotting entirely too seriously. Much as comic books were from the 1940s to, say, "Watchmen" in 1986, you never know exactly what will happen next. All you know is that it will be cheap, fast and out of control. And a machine gun bra might be involved. joe gross, austin american-statesman

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