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RATING: 1.5 stars (out of 4)

Over and over again during Machete Kills, various characters tell you that Machete can’t die.

Oh, how wrong they are, though, because you can see the Machete franchise dying right in front of your eyes. Its tired, pathetic jokes flop around like suffocating goldfish who jumped out of the bowl, and despite the pain, does not regret its decision. Its gaudy effects, with rubber severed heads, Heinz 57 blood and raw rib tip rotting flesh, aren’t so much shocking as they are schlocky. Its star, the stoic, unflappable Danny Trejo, looks like he’s working a chain gain as punishment for shanking someone in the yard.

Look around the audience and you’ll spot the same look of vacant dread in just about everyone’s eyes. The only excitement you’ll see is in those who are texting someone who’s sharing plans of something better to do afterward. It’s good to have something to look forward to other than more of this seemingly made-up-as-it-goes, hamster wheeling tale of butter knife-dull mass murder.

Remember back, if you can, to the original 2010 movie. It was crazy/beautiful. It had Robert De Niro as a racist politician calling illegal immigrants cucarachas. It had Lindsay Lohan playing the role she was born to play — a self-destructive whore. It had rampant, senseless nudity, the eternal character actor Trejo in a rare and exuberant chance to strut his stuff as a lead and Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez in their naughtiest of dispositions. I don’t want to say Machete was perfect, so I won’t, but I sort of mean it was without actually saying it.

Machete Kills, on the other hand, is the dull, no-personality friend Machete hangs around as a favor to its sister’s cousin. The reddest of flags is Charlie Sheen, who nowadays is the opposite of a seal of quality. Sheen plays the U.S. President who commissions Trejo’s illegal immigrant vigilante character to save the country from a missile attack by a renegade Mexican cartel dude. Sheen’s excuses for jokes include a recycled bed scene from Scary Movie 5 and a quote from his 2011 meltdown.

The rest of the movie doesn’t get much better. It trots out Cuba Gooding Jr. — another red flag — as a mater of disguise who can transform into Lady Gaga. Want worse? The movie can do worse. Mel Gibson also crawls out from his bunker to play a tech wizard/cult leader guy who wears a cape and challenges adversaries to swordfights. Wait up. I need to stop because I’m trying to warn you not to see this, and I think I might be making it all sound better than it is.

I guess, in a way, the movie is exactly that. It’s trying to be stupid with intentionally poor editing meant to evoke 1970s grindhouse flicks that played at theaters that are now meth labs. This movie skips the grindhouse era and goes straight for the meth house dynamic.

The story plays out like an action movie as retold by a 5-year-old who saw a couple different movies, didn’t understand what happened in either and chose to combine the two along with his least favorite episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Suffice it to say, it includes a person riding a warhead in the sky, a sex scene that appears to have been rendered by a Lite-Brite machine, hovercrafts, blue tunics and gunfights featuring people with such poor aim, they’re the few people I manage to kill online in Black Ops II.

The movie doesn’t so much end as it stops, but that’s not a complaint. Once the credits roll — at least an hour after it felt like they were supposed to — you’re grateful for the small miracle. Machete may not be able to die, but at least it stops. Eventually.

Starring Danny Trejo, Amber Heard, Mel Gibson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jessica Alba, Charlie Sheen, Antonio Banderas and Michelle Rodriguez. Written by Kyle Ward, based on a story by Robert Rodriguez and Marcel Rodriguez. Directed by Robert Rodriguez. 108 minutes. Rated R.

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