Loud toxic party is a real pain

Review: Action


132 minutes/Opens on Thursday/1 out of 5

The story: Machete (Danny Trejo) returns as the unkillable, unstoppable one-man army from Mexico. This time his foes are a drug cartel armed with nuclear weapons, led by supervillain Mendez (Demian Bichir). He is backed by shadowy American weapons tycoon Luther Voz (Mel Gibson).

What is Spanish for migraine?

Never mind, this toxic mess will leave viewers speaking the universal language of moaning in pain and nausea by the time the credits roll. And rarely ever have end credits been greeted with such relief.

The first Machete (2010) was a goof that sprung from a fake trailer contained in Grindhouse (2007).

From that Trejo-starring low-budget, moderately entertaining and somewhat commercially successful exercise in exploitation comes this sequel, a lazy, incoherent assemblage of groin- and breast-mounted machine gun scenes, in-jokes, catchphrases, celebrity cameos, explosions and a half dozen other elements that director and co-writer Robert Rodriguez tossed in without the trouble of a filter.

Most times, the footage looks as if Rodriguez is trying to put the franchise out of its misery, by making a product so awful the Internet crowd which campaigned for the trailer be made into an actual feature will shut up and stop telling him what to do.

Which is strange, because he, along with Quentin Tarantino and a few others, are film-makers known for making pastiches out of the genres they worship. Not all of them are successful at the box office or even much fun to watch - Grindhouse is one example - but all of them spring from a fanboy reverence.

The problem with loving trash cinema is that underwritten homages to the form look an awful lot like parody. And who needs to see two hours of mockery?

Rodriguez has two things the original masters of B-grade pulp never had: A bigger budget and a sense of irony. When both are applied, the result is rarely as clever or funny as the film-makers think it is - witness the many turkeys with high-concept titles that mix-and-match aliens, lesbians, vampires, dinosaurs and sharks.

The notion of a Mexican illegal alien as a badass avenger styled after anti-heroes in 1970s blaxploitation cinema was a single-joke premise, fine for use in a one-minute fake trailer. That one passable movie resulted from it was a miracle.

Rodriguez, pressing his luck by stretching it to two, at a certain point must have seen that he had painted himself into a corner. What to do?

His answer: Ring up celebrity friends (Lady Gaga, Sheen, billionaire businessman Elon Musk, among others) and turn the project into a loud party and pray that guests will mistake sheer volume for entertainment. Too bad the audience are the neighbours, pounding on the walls, screaming at them to stop.

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