By: Mark Di Stefano
2007’s Grindhouse featured a ton of fake trailers, one of them involving a Mexican vigilante looking for justice against those who betrayed him. Robert Rodriguez, who co-directed the Grindhouse double feature with Quentin Tarentino, turns the spoof trailer into reality in this gore fest that ends the summer on a good note. More after the Break.
Machete stars Danny Trejo, who also stared in the fake trailer. He plays Machete Cortez, a Mexican Federal Agent turned vigilante after he was betrayed by his own. His family is killed by the leader of all drug cartel operations, Torrez (Steven Seagal, in a surprisingly humorous performance), which forces him to move out of the county as an illegal immigrant. Fast forward a couple years later, and Machete is working hard labor with the rest of the illegal immigrants along the Texan-Mexican border. Along comes Booth (Jeff Fahey, also reprising his role from the trailer), who hires Machete to assassinate a corrupt Texas Senator (Robert DeNiro, seeming out of place a little bit). However, the job is a set-up for Machete to take the fall while someone else does the job. Machete won’t deal with that. He embarks on a journey to find the men who framed him, with bloody after bloody swing of his weapon of choice, a machete (go figure).
Along the way he meets “She” (a fiery Michelle Rodriguez), a vendor who sells tacos from her truck by day. By night, she’s the operator of a Mexican resistance movement known as “The Network” who wants to bring down Von (Don Johnson), leader of the vigilante border police. Sartana (the beautiful Jessica Alba) is an Immigrations Customs agent who is drawn between defending the law and defending her people. Machete even calls for his brother (Cheech Marin), a priest, to lend him a hand (and the weapons that he hides within his church). We round out the Rodriguez clan with Daryl Sabara (of Rodriguez’s Spy Kids trilogy), as worker for “The Network” who claims himself an adopted Mexican, which Sabara pulls off hilariously. The Rodriguez family of cast and crew always have good chemistry both in front and behind the camera.
Machete is a throwback to the style of seventies underground action films, much like what Grindhouse was. The mixture of blood, guts, naked girls, and machetes, goes pretty well together. The gore in this movie goes into maximum overdrive. At one point, Machete uses a guy’s intestines like a rope to escape through a window. The sexual drive is particularly strong when Machete makes all the women fall head over heels for him.
As entertaining as the film is there are questionable moments which make the moviegoer scratch his or her head. One such moment is the casting of Lindsey Lohan as April, the daughter of Jeff Fahey’s Booth. In the movie, April is a rich spoiled brat who does drugs and uses her looks to get ahead in life, and she wants to be a model. The character isn’t really a stretch for Miss Lohan when compared to her real life. The casting of Robert De Niro as the senator is pretty interesting. He’s always brings his A-game, but die-hard fans of De Niro fans might be surprised to see him in this type of work.
The film also tackles the immigration issue with vivid style. At one point, Alba rallies the people by shouting from the top of a car hood, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us”! The film can be a little preachy about the issue at times but it doesn’t matter. The leadership of Rodriguez and company make sure that film will make the audience cheer for Machete. The movie is for pure fun and entertainment, not much else.
With few flaws here and there, Machete is still an enjoyable film that’s bound to get cheers from Rodriguez fans and fans elsewhere.
Critic’s rating: 3 out of 5 stars.