title character in Machete is not the Uncle Machete
audiences were introduced to in writer/director Robert Rodriquez’s
kid-friendly Spy Kids series. Although both characters
are played by the same dude, craggy-faced Danny Trejo, this
Machete is as if someone tied him up and was made to watch
as the entire Spy Kid family was brutally murdered.
Machete (pronounced “ma-chet-ay”) has deeper
scars than the craters on the actor's distinctive mug. Violence
is merely an outlet for the raging inferno within his granite
frame. It’s a role that Trejo has hounded Rodriguez
to make into a feature film since 2007's Grindhouse,
when the character was introduced in one of many mock trailers
that helped sell the tone of those 70's exploitation flicks.
trailer, also directed by Rodriguez, became the fan-favorite
and is now the first to be made into a feature-length film.
Anyone anticipating this film will get exactly what they
expect, and then some. It’s just as gratingly over-the-top
and silly as Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and
may even be bloodier and more depraved than you might expect.
Rodriguez and co-director Ethan Maniquis inject the same
grimy tone and insane action with a walking-tall plot that
satirizes the current immigration (or anti-immigration)
film gets off to a brutal start with Machete (Danny Trejo),
as a Mexican federale who can only watch as local druglord
Torres (Steven Seagal) leaves him for dead after slaughtering
his wife. Shattered and discarded, Machete works random
day labor jobs in south Texas. He’s approached by
sleazy local businessman Booth (Jeff Fahey), who throws
$150,000 at him to get him to assassinate controversial
immigration opponent Senator McLaughlin (a hammy Robert
De Niro), a gig he realizes he can’t turn down. It
becomes quite obvious how bad luck is as attracted to Machete
as a fly is to a turd.
is double-crossed and set-up, finding himself hounded by
persistent immigration officer Sartana (Jessica Alba) and
in the crosshairs of Von Stillman (Don Johnson listed as
“and Introducing” in the retro opening credits),
a militant border cop. He receives the unlikely aid of Luz
(Michelle Rodriguez), a mysterious Che Guevara-like urban
legend known as She, who runs an underground network that
run from Booth and his goons, Machete also gets help from
his Padre brother (Cheech Marin) and winds up kidnapping Booth’s
wife and daughter (Lindsay Lohan), hoping blackmail will help
his thirst for vengeance. As the myth of Machete becomes bigger
than the man, the film’s conclusion plows through an
enormous body count that leads to the inevitable yet laughable
showdown with Torres.
cardboard characters and stereotypical subplots congest
a faux border-line message movie that knows it’s
just a violently funny pulp parody. While the best part
of the film is the casting of Trejo as Machete, it’s
too bad former Spy Kid Daryl Sabara, and horror mainstay
Tom Savini as a 1-800-HITMAN, are included as mere throwaway
characters . Sure, they’re written for laughs and,
yes, they’re funny, even if Sabara is unconvincing
as a former gangbanger. But most of the time I found myself
thinking that the situations and reactions to Machete’s
predicaments would’ve been funny enough on their own.
is all about the overkill, though, and this shows most of
all in the many kills we see on-screen. Among the decapitations
and amputations, there are some scenes where you may find
yourself losing your stomach.
how far is Rodriguez willing to take you? Well, there’s
the scene where Machete escapes a hospital corridor by disemboweling
an enemy and using his intestine to rappel out a window.
We’re also given a scene early on in the film with
a naked chica who, after ambushing Machete, calls in her
victory with a cell phone that’s stored in her hoo-ha.
I give Rodriguez credit for his audacity,
his creative editing as well as his CG-enhanced visuals,
but I didn’t need the camera to wink at every sharp
object possible. I can deduce on my own that any variety
of items lying around, from corkscrew to weed wacker, will
be used as a weapon in this glorious Mexploitation schlock.
campy stock characterization by Rodriguez and co-writer/cousin
Álvaro Rodriguez prevents a viewer from seriously
considering the controversy of the movie's views on immigration.
The obvious empathy toward the illegal laborers oppressed
by American extremists and racist politicians is exhausted
by rote, often illogical exposition.
what could possibly be logical about anything in this kind
of movie? I’m well aware of such a question but that
didn’t stop me from wanting Rodriguez and company
to take these characters and their story in a slightly more
Trejo is so commanding and convincing in his role, the stakes
of the film could have matched his oily authenticity to
deliver something more threatening. But that’s impossible
when Machete, as the renegade anti-hero, embodies the only
have been nice to see Machete face a formidable foe instead
of the bloated mess we get with Seagal. He’s as much
of a joke as Lohan is, but at least money was saved on her
wardrobe costs. It’s really sad to see how much Lohan
resembles her tabloid-saturated real life here; even sadder,
it’s not much of a surprise. Thankfully, Rodriguez
(Michelle, that is), Fahey and Alba, deliver the appropriate
amount of gusto in their well-suited roles.
out of the theater after the screening, I had a better appreciation
for MacGruber, a misunderstood albeit funnier film
from earlier this summer which had better comic timing.
Any gripes I have though are fruitless since Rodriguez and
Trejo serve audiences exactly what they want.
be on the fence about many of the films that come out from
Troublemaker Studios (the house of Rodriguez) but I can
appreciate his talent and bravado. I was entertained, I
laughed, I was shocked and would recommend Machete….to
the right people, maybe those who like “Itchy and
Scratchy” type-violence. It could be that watching
this so soon after the bloodshed of Piranha 3D,
that I may have hit my limit of provocative absurdity, at
least for now.
review also appears on David's own website,
Keeping It Reel.)