I enjoy junk culture as much as the next guy... OK, more than the next guy... but there are limits.
One such step over the line is Machete Kills, a sequel to the 2010 hit Machete. That movie, you'll recall, only existed to fulfil the promise of the fake Machete trailer director Robert Rodriguez created for the double bill Grindhouse.
Fun Fact: Machete outgrossed Grindhouse by nearly $20 million with less than one-sixth of Grindhouse's budget.
Machete was good junky fun, introducing Danny Trejo's character, a migrant day worker, with a past as an ass-kicking government operative, double-crossed into super-human action against a cadre of bad guys. If nothing else, it introduced the notion the human intestine can be used for rappelling down the exterior of a building.
In keeping with the joke of the first movie, Machete Kills opens with a trailer for its own sequel: Machete Kills Again... In Space.
It looks terrible. Evidently, the Machete franchise is headed downhill.
Exhibit A: Machete Kills.
Drafted back into the crime-fighting biz, Trejo's granite-faced hero immediately suffers the loss of his unlikely lover in the first few minutes of this film. He is thus ripe to be drafted into taking revenge by accepting a mission from the president (Charlie Sheen, billed by his birth name Carlos Estevez) to kill a megalomaniac madman who has a missile aimed at Washington. To get to him, Machete must kidnap the dual-personality drug lord Mendez (Demian Bechir), who leads him on a chase to the Mexican-U.S. border being chased by a man-eating brothel owner (Sofia Vergara) with a double-barreled bullet-spitting bra, as well as sundry assassins (Cuba Gooding, Walton Goggins, Lady Gaga) who may actually be the same person.
It all leads to a showdown with the aforementioned madman Voz (Mel Gibson), a cheesy sub-Bond villain whose gimmick is that he can foretell the future a few minutes in advance.
Gibson appears to be having fun, and it's probably a small mercy he is having such a delusional good time. He's never given a worse performance. He and Rodriguez appear to have conspired to make fun of Gibson's crazy-man reputation with the result that Gibson seems to be playing himself. (Demian Bechir -- who played Fidel Castro in Steven Soderbergh's Che movies -- is the far more entertaining nutcase here.) Gibson just registers as very creepy.
Indeed, the B-movie vibe of the first film has been supplanted by a whole lot of creepy content here: Vergara's man-hating invective, Lady Gaga's vile mugging, and the beautiful Amber Heard (as a government operative called Miss San Antonio) obliged to seduce the 69-year-old Trejo.
And hey, how about Rodriguez drafting former Spy Kids juvenile Alexa Vega to serve as this movie's T&A quotient in the role of an underdressed prostitute/assassin named Kill Joy.
Kill Joy might have been a good title for this movie. If the first film succeeded in paying joyful tribute to the tawdry exploitation movie, the sequel kills it dead.