It started with a trailer, a fake movie ad "left over" from the 1970s for a Mexploitation flick dropped into Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse ... which Robert Rodriguez later expanded into the very funny and pointedly satirical full-length Machete. Now, the sequel, Machete Kills, opens with a new fake 1970s relic trailer, for, heh, Machete Kills Again in Space.
It hints at a completely ridiculous expansion of the Machete legend into Star Wars-era space opera, and it's as many degrees of insanity beyond where Machete Kills will take you as Kills is beyond the first flick.
Never let it be said that Rodriguez lets any fear of embracing cartoonish absurdity stop him. His wonderful recklessness isn't always successful — his Spy Kids movies quickly became embarrassments — but so far, so good with the former Mexican Federale turned knife-wielding man of justice and bloody mayhem.
This time out, Rodriguez has gone for flat-out, no-message action comedy that is so outrageously over-the-top violent and relentlessly unrealistic that it's impossible to object to any of it. The human body, when it meets a helicopter ... that thing that we witness here simply wouldn't happen. Yet it's so inventively gory that I laughed my head off. (Laughing one's head off doesn't actually happen onscreen to any character we meet, but it's the sort of nonsense in which that could literally happen.)
Machete (Danny Trejo) is invited, no refusal allowed, by the president of the United States to head to Mexico and pull off a job that no legitimate American agent could: Stop the insane cartel lord with the crazy-ass missile he's bought with his ill-gotten millions from launching the thing at Washington, D.C., intended as a sort of WMD middle finger to U.S. arrogance.
The plot, in the grand scheme, sounds action-movie straightforward enough. It's in the details that the brilliant foolishness comes to the fore (and accidentally holds up for ridicule the sorts of action-movie plots we yawn at nowadays). The president is played by Carlos Estevez ... that would be Charlie Sheen, of course, in a wicked riff on his father's turn in the role in a more serious capacity.
The drug lord is played by Demian Bichir, a serious actor turned very, very goofy here. Machete's control operative in San Antonio is ... Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard), because beauty pageants turn out to provide awesome cover for a secret agent. Apparently no one expects a blond Barbie who dreams of world peace to be plotting covert ops.
All that beautiful idiocy is frontloaded into Machete Kills. And there's so much more, what with Lady Gaga as a hired killer after Machete, or Mel Gibson as ... well, you'll see. Gibson hasn't been this enjoyably bonkers on screen in ages.
The whole thing is completely preposterous in the best way. Rodriguez uses cheap '70s film gimmicks and tropes in smart, funny ways, particularly to underscore the problems today's movies often have with treating women as disposable props. When misogyny is met with a gunshot to the knee, it makes it easier for a gal like me to go along with the fun.