It took a sick imagination, critical acclaim for the film’s faux-trailer beginnings in “Grindhouse,” and time away from directing garbage such as “Shorts” for Robert Rodriguez to finally get off his butt and finally helm “Machete,” the film that finally makes the Rodriguez name worth mentioning again, following disasters such as the aforementioned “Shorts,” “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D,”and the “Spy Kids” series.
“Machete” stars cult-actor Danny Trejo as the man of the hour, Machete (interestingly enough, Trejo, who starred in a Rodriguez production before, also played a character nicknamed “Machete” in “Spy Kids), an ex-federale who is double-crossed and forced to watch the slaughter of his family at the hands of drug kingpin Torrez, who is played by a delightful Steven Seagal, who has been absent from movie theaters for quite some time now. However, in the midst of prowling the streets of Texas as a day-laborer, Machete resurfaces when Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), a racist politician who calls for strict border control and who uses the term “cockroaches” and “parasites” when it comes to illegal immigrants, hires Booth (Jeff Fahey), his campaign manager, to plan out an orchestrated assassination attempt. Of course, Machete is brought in as the shooter but is once again betrayed when one of McLaughlin’s henchmen shoots him in the shoulder and then McLaughlin in the leg — making it seem like Machete was the Senator’s shooter and the henchman a hero.
This begins a manhunt for Machete, who is used a pawn in order for McLaughlin’s falling numbers to jump drastically. But Machete once again proves to be irresistible to the ladies in more ways than one and thus ignites an interest in not only Sartana (Jessica Alba), an Immigrant and Customs agent, who later proves to be of great aid, but also Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a taco stand owner who runs “the network,” a secret organization who helps immigrants cross the border safely.
“Machete” is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s violent as hell — sporting multiple decapitations, stabbings, shootings, fisticuffs, and even a scene during which Machete using a guy’s intestines to swing in a Tarzan-esque fashion (possibly the funniest moment in the film), it’s rough and unpolished, which is course, intended and adds effect, and it’s offensive, which one should expect from any sort of exploitation film. Rodriguez, who co-wrote the script with Álvaro Rodríguez, makes “Machete” an unrestrained smack in the face to any extremists or fundamentalists that are still fueling the extremely stupid debate about Arizona and it’s strict immigration laws. All of this means one thing: there are going to be a lot of people who absolutely despise the film and discredit it as anything but a pathetic attempt at shock value.
But what all of the faithful audiences that indulged themselves in camp-fests such as “Machete” and even the recent “Piranha 3D” have to say in response is “stop being a sissy,” and I’m pretty sure that this is what Rodriguez would say if given the chance.
Past its humorous script, which kept me laughing all the way until the end (which is a difficult feat to accomplish), and its desert-rockish soundtrack, “Machete” does sport some excellent performances — but of course, just like the rest of the film, they should not be judged by the standards of standard cinema.
Of course, Trejo is excellent, but who really expected him to fail as Machete? The man has been typecast for years as this sort of character to the point where he has perfected it. It’s just a shame that it took this long for Trejo to get out of the sidelines and lead his own film and in essence, “Machete” is his film. Every scene that he’s in, he absolutely nails, and I’m hopeful that this gets more leading-roles for the vastly unappreciated actor.
What really got me interested in “Machete” however, was not Trejo or Rodriguez, but Seagal. Perhaps I’ve acquired some unexplainable love for the actor from my mother, who seems to be his number one fan, but Seagal and also De Niro, both ace their roles. Intentionally miscast, both actors accomplish one thing — they both make their roles as convoluted and laughable as possible. Now for anything other “Machete,” I’d mark that down as a flaw, but in this particular film, it works. Both actors sport incredibly crappy accents, hilarious stereotypes, and are just fun to watch and that in my book, allows me to call their performances excellent.
Other mentionable performances are that of Cheech Marin, who plays Machete’s ex-federale-turned-priest brother, who has a taste for shotguns and Lindsay Lohan, who perhaps mirroring her recent real-life attitude, plays Booth’s hedonistic and sex-crazed daughter (who Machete, of course, makes love to).
Is “Machete” the “hate-film” as some might see it as? This is up for debate, however, I see it as pure fun; Rodriguez simply doesn’t care for all the drama involving the immigrant issue and thus makes a joke out of it and succeeds. “Machete” is cut above the rest, and it might even be the best film of the summer — it’s just sad that it released right at the season’s exit.
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