Over-the-top doesn’t even begin to describe “Machete Kills,” in which Danny Trejo’s Machete is back with a vengeance.
To be fair, vengeance is sort of the character’s M.O. at all times, and Trejo is terrific yet again in his role as the ex-Federale, who took down corrupt politicians, businessmen and assassins in 2010’s “Machete.”
Aside from Trejo, the film is overstuffed with cameos from Sofia Vergara as a self-described “man-eater,” Jessica Alba, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, Antonio Banderas, Charlie Sheen and Walt Goggins, just to name a few.
And while “Kills” certainly is having fun with its talented cast, the movie’s embarrassment of riches is also its biggest problem. These cameos are clearly in part an attempt to tread water leading up to the film’s final cliffhanger, and it shows.
Sheen, credited as Carlos Estevez, is surprisingly the most subdued of any character on-screen, playing the President, who enlists Machete to save the U.S. from a ruthless and potentially insane South American dictator (Demian Bichir).
Despite all the clutter, Amber Heard is terrific as Machete’s handler, a blonde bombshell whose cover is Miss San Antonio, a beauty queen whose pageant circuit keeps her close to the border.
Lady Gaga is another highlight in her scenery-chewing role as La Chameleon, a (you guessed it) chameleonic assassin who changes personas after being seen.
Despite ramping up the graphic violence and sexuality from “Machete,” things don’t really pick up until Machete is reunited with his female counterpart, Shé (Michelle Rodriguez), a revolutionary who hopes to take her organization, the Network, global.
Together, the two face off against a nefarious inventor (Mel Gibson) who plots nuclear destruction in the hopes of riding to safety on his space shuttle.
Yet while many films leading into another installment might end with some sort of “To be continued…” message, director Robert Rodriguez goes one step further by creating a faux trailer for “Machete Kills Again …In Space,” his planned third “Machete” film to end the trilogy.
Regardless of the film’s missteps, there’s still a lot to love in “Machete Kills,” and it’s just wild enough to make you hope that “Machete Kills Again …In Space” comes to fruition.
"Machete Kills" is Rated R and in theaters now.