The original “Machete” had plenty of star power, with Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, and even Lindsay Lohan lining up for either major roles or cameos. Director Robert Rodriguez amps up the star power again in “Machete Kills,” lining up a laundry list of Hollywood celebrities to appear in his sequel to the cult 2010 hit. While most of the characters are new, a few familiar faces show up as well.
Danny Trejo is back in the lead role, playing the ex-Federale who was out for revenge against those who wronged him in the first film, including politicians. In an unlikely turn of events, Trejo’s character, Machete, is actually on the side of the government in “Machete Kills.” He is tasked with slashing his way through Mexico to stop a maniacal sociopath from launching a weapon on Washington, D.C. This is the third time Trejo has played Machete; the first was in a short fake movie trailer that was a part of Rodriguez’s 2007 gory delight “Grindhouse.”
The maniac whom Machete is trying to stop is played by Demian Bichir, who came to be known worldwide for his role as Fidel Castro in “Che.” The character is ominously known as Mendez the Madman, a title he more than lives up to. Like many disarming men, he has a beautiful girlfriend, played by Vanessa Hudgens, who may have finally shed her goody “High School Musical” image for good. Bichir chews up scenery and spits it out with glee, turning in one of the more impressive performances in the film.
Before Machete can get to Mendez, he has to go through an arms dealer named Luther Voz, played by Mel Gibson. The Aussie actor seems like he is having a fantastic time playing the egotistical, slightly crazy Voz, who is not an easy man to defeat. His performance is almost equal in its pure entertainment value to that of Bichir, almost as if the actors were working in tandem or their characters were somehow related.
Since Machete has so many formidable opponents on his way to stopping Mendez, he has to enlist the help of some federal agents to ensure the job gets done. One of those is the very fetching Miss San Antonio, played by Amber Heard. Though she poses as a beauty queen, she is actually a tough-as-nails agent who uses her feminine wiles as much as her stellar intelligence to get the job done.
The tough federal agent from the first film, Sartana, is back as well. Jessica Alba reprises her role as the immigration officer, though her part is much smaller than in the first film. Still, it is a welcome return for a very popular character, and it gives the film a little more continuity.
Another short cameo that is still very effective comes from acting veteran Carlos Estevez. The audience may not have heard of Carlos Estevez before, even though he has actually been around for years. That’s because he usually goes by his stage name, Charlie Sheen. Sheen decided to go with his birth name for the film in order to play the President of the United States, who personally tasks Machete with his mission to take down Mendez.
Another person whom Machete must get through in order to get to Mendez is Madame Desdemona, who has a bone to pick with Machete and many others. She is a formidable opponent, in keeping with the overarching theme of strong-willed and powerful women who either aid Machete or try to foil him. She is played by Sofia Vergara, who has stood out for the past three years as arguably the funniest member of the ensemble cast of the sitcom “Modern Family.”
Even Lady Gaga gets in on the cameo action, turning in her first feature-film acting performance. Her character is very mysterious, so it is best to watch the film without knowing too much, or else one of the most fun aspects of the film could be spoiled for moviegoers before they set foot in theaters. Other actors who turn in cameo performances include William Sadler, Michelle Rodriguez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Marko Zaror, and Antonio Banderas, who has become something of a Rodriguez film mainstay.
“Machete Kills” will show off its star-studded cast when it opens in theaters across the U.S. on Oct. 11, 2013. It opens a week earlier in some European countries, including France and Denmark. The rest of the world will have to wait until late October or early November to see Trejo and company dealing with madness and mayhem.