Even as Robert Rodriguez’s “Mexploitation” action comedy strains to fill a typical feature’s length, it’s hard not to smile at Danny Trejo: a Charles Bronson for a moment that desperately needs one. So leathery that his eyeblinks arrive with a weathered pop, the actor spins his signature role into expert movie satire (just as Leslie Nielsen did with The Naked Gun). “You know Mexico—hell, you are Mexico,” implores oily U.S. President Charlie Sheen (credited under his birth name, Carlos Estevez), and Trejo’s resigned stoicism turns all that follows into a private fantasy of vengeance.
The mayhem is plentiful: A maniac gangster (Demian Bichir) hooks up a nuke to his heartbeat, while Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) straddles Trejo, enticing him into covert action. You can thrill to Machete Kills’s endless stream of slobbery cameos, from Sofía Vergara’s deliriously furious brothel keeper to Mel Gibson’s Bond-grade tech mastermind (the guy knows his comic beats and is welcome for a change). But you’re really going for Rodriguez’s retrohappy splatter: Intestines tangle in helicopter rotors, heads pop in spring-loaded decapitations, and there’s even a new fake trailer up top. Little is believable, and that’s exactly as it should be.
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