Danny Trejo busts in with his leading role as an ex federale, code name Machete, that witnesses the horrible execution of his wife at the hand of the drug lord, Torrez (Steven Seagal). Three years later Machete is an illegal immigrant living in the states and working as a day laborer and is offered a large sum of money by Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate a senator going for re-election by centering his campaign about getting rid of illegal immigrants. Jessica Alba plays Sartana, a special agent for Immigrations who’s been tracking down an underground system known as “The Network,” which helps mexican immigrants enter the country, get jobs and is run by taco truck businesswoman, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez). Machete, Luz and Sartana uncover a greedy political plot to demonize the immigrants and put an electrified border between the states and Mexico. The film is directed by Robert Rodriguez, and is based off the trailer specifically made initially just to be put in front of his and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” and “Planet Terror” Grindhouse double feature.
Now that you know what Machete is about, let me clarify that while it may have a message it’s trying to get across, it’s done in such a way that there’s almost no way you can hold it against the film. Lots of people go to movies to escape their day to day lives, not to be bombarded with the same issues they hear every night on the news or political elections. My point is that you should not be dissuaded from seeing Machete for its stance on immigration, as the heart and soul of the film is ridiculously violent action and hilarious comedy.
Whatever political agenda Machete has to offer becomes a sidebar when it dishes out the buckets of blood, guts, exploding heads, boobs and gloriously over-the-top dialogue. Watching the film is sort of like watching a no-holds-barred wrestling cage match. Just about anything and everything is used to inflict massive amounts of violence on everyone on screen. You get death by guns, machete, corkscrew, high heel shoe, USB chord and various types of medical equipment. If you aren’t having fun by the time Trejo repels out of the window of a hospital and swings into a window on the floor below with a human intestine, then you bought a ticket to the wrong movie. This is not material that’s meant to be taken deadly serious, this is pure escapist entertainment that would have been a little better if it was a little shorter.
The odd thing about trying to criticize a film like Machete, is that most things you would highlight as faults in the film are actually what make this film so enjoyable. The performances are for the most part campy and intentionally over-the-top. My ticket purchase was completely justified with the performance of Jeff Fahey alone. His character was easily the highlight of the film. Where I would normally bash a film for the utilization of the tough guy voice, I have to commend here, because its at once engaging and even hilarious given the lines he delivers. Trejo is definitely an opposing individual, but this film does little to prove why he should be a leading man, but again, that’s clearly the point. Part of the comedy is seeing a character like Machete scoring all these good looking women, and that some of them actually lust for him. Lastly, kudos on the casting of Lindsay Lohan, to play a drugged out skank that believes and wants the public to be obsessed with her. I laughed hysterically almost every time she was on screen, or mentioned on screen, as it all plays like a short film based on her actual life, and I couldn’t get enough.
I originally expected the film to have a really grainy looking picture, being a throwback to the grindhouse flicks. The opening sequence before the title card had some noticable grain, but as the movie went on I didn’t even notice after a while. The film also features extreme over-the-top violence, one of my favorites being in the opening sequence where Machete decapitates a bad guy then cuts the severed head in half while its in the air; or the scene where he severs the heads off three guys at once with one quick swipe.
Comedy is probably my favorite aspect of the film, followed by the action. There are actually several slow sections that made me kind of wish the film trimmed about 15 or 20 minutes off the run time. In addition to the main cast there is lots more star power behind the film, many have small parts, but all add their own little spice; including Don Johnson as a heartless border patrol guard, Cheech Marin as Machete’s priest brother, Robert DeNiro is the Senator hell bent on ridding the US of immigrants and even an appearance by Tom Savini as a hitman sent to get rid of Machete.
With the right audience Machete is a fun and bloody action movie that will have you laughing almost as much as you’ll be wincing from the violence. It’s not a film everyone is going to fall madly in love with and might be just slightly overlong, but uses its tasteless violence, nudity and dialogue with great effect, creating a truly entertaining grindouse cinematic experience.