Machete (Danny Trejo) is on a mission with his girlfriend, immigration agent Sartana (Jessica Alba), to stop U.S. military meeting a Mexican gangster cartel at the border of Arizona to sell them weaponry. They certainly grab the soldiers' attention when Sartana shoots their officer in the leg to slow him down, but when the gangsters arrive they gun them down, leaving the two agents diving for cover. Now they are separated, and Machete hears a shot from where his girlfriend was hiding: someone wearing a Mexican wrestler's mask as just executed her and disappeared with the rest of the cartel, abandoning Machete to the American cops. But don't despair, someone needs you, Machete...
The first Machete movie was based on the well-regarded fake trailer featured in the failed experiment Grindhouse, but director Robert Rodriguez was so keen on the idea, as was Danny Trejo, that they expanded it into one of the filmmaker's typically starstudded efforts where he would assemble an impressive - and let's face it, gimmicky - cast by having them appear for around ten or fifteen minutes' screen time all told simply because he had hired their services for a few short days and thanks to his way with economy was able to put the jigsaw pieces of their scenes together into one entire movie. Such was the template these works adhered to that they had grown into Rodriguez's trademark.
But someone needed to tell him to distinguish between his kids' flicks and the ones made for the grown-ups in the potential audience. When it was released, Machete Kills flopped at the box office and that could have been down to the results being impossible to take seriously as a movie adults would pay money for; if it wasn't a spoof, what was it? The first instalment had at least one foot in reality, or if not reality then the trappings of a generic action thriller only with a ludicrously over the top sensibility, but what were we to make of this which starts with a trailer for the fanciful sequel Machete Kills Again... In Space which was meant to arrive some time after the film we were about to watch? It was clear this was not going to make a lick of sense.
So with a plot lifted from Moonraker, were we dealing with Rodriguez's version of a Roger Moore James Bond movie, with all the excesses that entailed? He didn't have the budget at his disposal, but he did have an imagination which appeared to be stuck somewhere around his Spy Kids series, as if he had forgotten to adapt it to his other strain of entertainments; sure, there was violence and swearing (but no sex, not much anyway), yet take those away and you had a childishly simplistic affair. So the question as to how much you would appreciate this rested on how far your sense of humour was wedded to Rodriguez's own, and your tolerance for a tongue so far in his cheek that he risked incoherence. If you did find this relentless idiocy funny, you were going to get on with Machete Kills.
Trejo continued his career path as the Mexican Charles Bronson with his granite features and ready resort to firearms, meaning this was really his Death Wish III in terms of the tone, except that movie was a lot less self-conscious than what went on here, which was the unironic key to its risible appeal. But you know, even if this was playing as broad as the side of a barn, there remained a cheek, a chutzpah if you liked, that did produce laughs, however grudgingly, and a lot of that was down to how far the cast were in on the joke. Machete is dispatched by the President of the United States - Charlie Sheen billed under his real name Carlos Estevez - to stop a Mexican gang lord turned freedom fighter (Demian Bichir) from aiming a nuclear missile at Washington D.C., but wouldn't you know it the real villain is Mel Gibson. He's trying to wipe out life on Earth from his space station, leading to in-jokes galore, Lady Gaga played by Antonio Banderas and Cuba Gooding Jr, Amber Heard as a pistol-packing beauty queen, Michelle Rodriguez in an eyepatch... you got the idea. Music by the director and Carl Thiel.