PUT A KNIFE IN MACHETE KILLS

Robert Rodriguez is a master of his craft. And by craft, I mean making outrageous exploitation films that recall the B-movies of the 70s.

Nowhere is this more apparent in films like “From Dusk ‘Til Dawn”, “Planet Terror” and “Machete”, the last of which was so over the top and hilariously bad (in a good way) that it was begging for a sequel.

Unfortunately, “Machete Kills” fails to uphold the laughably entertaining standard of its predecessor, with bizarre tonal shifts and hoards of unnecessary characters that cause the film to lose focus.

Danny Trejo reprises his role as ex-federal Machete Cortez, who is employed by President Rathcock (Charlie Sheen, credited as his birth name Carlos Estevez) to stop a revolutionary named Mendez (Demian Bichir) from nuking Washington D.C. with a rouge missile. When Mendez wires the missile’s clock to the beating of his heart, Machete is forced to take Mendez with him to find the missile’s maker to deactivate it. All the while, he is chased by a troupe of deadly prostitutes and an assassin named La Camaleon.

Trejo plays the character as well as before, that is being a man of little words and a lot of action. Just as in the previous film, Machete is involved in gory, over the top action scenes that are a treat to watch.

La Camaleon is also an intriguing character, given that he’s a disguise master played by four different actors, among whom are Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonia Banderas and, surprisingly, Lady Gaga. But while the film is enjoyable in its own silly way for the first half, it quickly dovetails into a completely different movie come the climax.

Mendez is revealed to be a pawn for the real villain, an arms dealer named Luther Voz (Mel Gibson). As soon as Voz enters the picture, the film goes from cartoony Mexican revenge thriller to a science fiction piece, all in the name of setting up a further sequel, “Machete Kills Again…In Space!”

A fake trailer follows at the end to visualize what could be the ultimate modern B-movie experience, but the fact that sequel set-up completely ruined what could have been a straightforward “Mexploitation” movie is disappointing.

I was expecting this film to be of the “so bad it’s good” variety like the first one was, but instead I got a film that was just straight up bad. Thankfully, that other space film I saw this weekend made up for this disaster of a movie.