Machete: A Review

Machete – Dir: Robert Rodriguez; *ing: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan

Machete don’t text.

Machete is an important film of our time, exploring the highly topical and controversial issue of illegal immigrants in America, and the exploitation of it by corrupt politicians and profiteers on both sides of the Mexican-American border.

And it has a naked lady demonstrating a really unique way to store your cell phone, and main man Danny Trejo making good his escape by abseiling off of a bad guy’s intestines. What, you were expecting Mario Vargas Llosa? In case you didn’t catch the title, the film is written and directed by Robert Rodriguez, the same cinematic sociopath who in Planet Terror stuck a M4A1 carbine assault rifle/M203 grenade launcher on Rose McGowan’s thigh stump and called it macaroni. So subtle it ain’t. In fact, Machete started life as an accompanying trailer for a (then) non-existent film with Planet Terror, and apparently was so close to Rodriguez’s crazy heart that he finally had to expand it into a feature which showcases all those filmic excesses that we have come to know, be shocked and awed by, grudgingly fall in love with, and expect from the master of ‘Mexploitation’: blood, guts, lust and gore, filmed with such unashamed passion and relish that it lifts the B-movie genre into a kind of heaven. Featuring fun with digestive organs and weapons of mass carnage!

Machete (Trejo), so named because his weapon of choice happens to be, well, a machete, is a Mexican Federale so tough-as-rusted-nails that you could light a stick of dynamite under his cojones and not elicit an eyebrow raise. Nevertheless, he is brutally set up and left for dead by ruthless drug baron Torrez (Seagal – his atonal, ethnically indeterminate, chop-socky Buddha persona finally finds its ironic sweet spot!), but like the proverbial bad penny, Machete turns up quite not-dead across the border in Texas where he joins the myriad other cheap illegal labour for hire. His bloodletting prowess catches the eye of politico Booth (Fahey) who hires him to assassinate anti-immigrant senator McLaughlin (De Niro, in fine Bush form). However, Machete finds himself in the crosshairs when it turns out that all three big bads are in major time cahoots. He gets help (and much more) from Agent Sartana (Alba), and taco belle Luz (Rodriguez), as he plots his revenge. Well, there isn’t much plotting or planning actually, he really just shoots from the hip. Literally. Along the way, he helps carry the flag for his poor, exploited brothers in arms, puts paid to their exploiters, and watches in classic dead-pan satisfaction as his impaling of his old nemesis is refined into hara-kiri.

Obviously, Machete’s brand of gleeful, ‘omigod-they-didn’t-just-do-that!’ mayhem will NOT be to everyone’s taste. As anyone familiar with Rodriguez’s oeuvre will tell you, this is Tarantino/Ritchie times twenty-five, on a highly controlled recreational drug. This is tar-black comedy with a smorgasbord of Tejano Grand Guignol, strictly not for vegans. But for its core audience of slightly certifiable lovers of cinematic intemperance, Machete is giddy, hair-raising fun. Rodriguez does not suffer from filmic insanity, he ENJOYS IT, employing the kind of visual and aural flourishes that leave one reeling. Equal parts goof and grit (okay, more emphasis on the goof), the film pays homage to the ethos of the grind-house genre while simultaneously skewering contemporary pop-culture fixtures (professional train-wreck Lohan as a gun-toting nun, anyone?). With tongue firmly in hideously scarred cheek, Trejo speaks barely ten lines in the film but carries his first-time-as-leading-man status with bravado; his face looks like a punctured football left over from FIFA 2010, but his Machete gets more action than 007. Like Schwarzenegger before him, if Trejo hadn’t existed, somebody would’ve had to invent him. As Machete himself puts it, “Why would I want to be a real person, when I’m already a myth?”

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