MACHETE KILLS (15, 108 mins) **
Starring Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofia Vergara, Amber Heard, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr, Demian Bichir, Charlie Sheen, Vanessa Hudgens, Jessica Alba, Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson. Director: Robert Rodriguez.
Lady Gaga makes her big screen acting debut in Machete Kills and the chameleonic pop vixen is a perfect fit for Robert Rodriguez’s blood-soaked sequel.
Not only is the film festooned with scantily-clad femmes in revealing costumes, but it repeatedly looks for shock value in every outlandish set-up.
Consequently, one henchman is sucked into the blades of a helicopter by his own intestines and another group is eviscerated into glistening entrails by the outboard motor of an airborne speedboat.
Anything can, and does, happen in Rodriguez’s anarchic caper, including a ludicrous sci-fi finale recycled from late-1970s James Bond. Unfortunately, all of the gratuitous bloodshed and high-velocity hijinks are dull and repetitive.
Machete Kills puts the tat in Mex-ploitation, the frankenword coined by writer-director Rodriguez to encapsulate his Latin-flavoured homage to exploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s.
US President Rathcock (Sheen) grants Mexican superspy Machete Cortez (Trejo) citizenship in exchange for hunting down an emotionally-unstable terrorist called Marcos Mendez (Bichir), who intends to launch a stolen nuclear missile into the beating heart of Washington D.C..
Machete’s assigned handler is a sassy undercover agent, who passes herself off as a busty beauty queen called Miss San Antonio (Heard).
“Try not to be distracted by the cleavage and hairspray. It’s part of the cover,” she coos.
Machete wields his namesake without mercy as he cuts a swathe through Mendez’s henchmen, unmasking the mastermind of the diabolical plot: an arms manufacturer called Luther Voz (Gibson), who has a compelling reason for unleashing “gargantuan, irrevocable anarchy”.
Thankfully, Machete can always rely on his feisty sidekick with an eye patch, Luz (Rodriguez), and her underground band of brothers for back-up.
Complicating matters, an elusive assassin called La Camaleon (Lady Gaga) and a vengeful brothel madam (Vergara) are also on Machete’s trail, both intent on disproving the myth that the superspy is impervious to bullets and blades.
Bookended by previews of a third chapter entitled Machete Kills Again... In Space!, Rodriguez’s film outstays its welcome well before Gibson enters the fray as a deranged Blofeld-style villain intent on establishing a new world order.
Trejo barely registers emotion, even rage, as he slices, dices and decapitates the supporting cast while Antonio Banderas and Cuba Gooding Jr enjoy brief cameos.
Jokes fall flat apart from one throwaway flourish: obscuring a sex scene with 3D blurring and asking the audience to Put On Your Glasses via a flashing onscreen caption, even though no-one has a pair of plastic specs.
The second hour of Machete Kills also passes in a blur, but that’s a result of the audience drifting in and out of bored consciousness rather than visual trickery.