R, 105 min., 2010
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin with Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal, and Robert DeNiro
Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Screenplay by Robert Rodriguez and Alvero Rodriguez
While Machete is one hilarious, madcap, blood-filled pinata party, it’s also one of the most politically charged action movies to come along this year.
The iconic big screen bad-ass Danny Trejo gets his much needed day in the sun at Machete, an ex- Mexican cop turned Texas day laborer who finds himself in the middle of the battle between borders, with double crossing politicians, vigilantes, cops, and cartels. All the while he’s becoming another legendary folk hero from the endless mind of Robert Rodriguez and the Troublemaker studio family.
Machete is joined by a cast that can slap and slice the face off of The Expendables – they can be labeled like Sergio Leone‘s The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. The Good: the ultimate female revolution fighter from a taco truck Luz/She (Michelle Rodriguez in another one of her kick butt and still look sexy performances), INS agent sexpot Santana (Jessica Alba), and Priest (Cheech Marin showing up in his best Rodriguez movie cameo to date). The Bad: evil vigilante Texan Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson, at his sleazy cigar slinging best, carrying echoes of Henry Fonda’s villainous performance in Once Upon a Time in the West), racist tea bagger Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro having fun as the guy you love to hate), scheming political assistant Booth (Jeff Fahey making us wonder why he isn’t cast in more movies as a screen villain), and Mexican drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal taking everything so seriously and with hilarious end results). And The Ugly: drugged up bad girl turned religious savior April (Lindsay Lohan always down to satirize her own persona) and the famous worn and pockmarked face of Danny Trejo as Machete.
All these wacky characters and more face off in a blood-filled cannon of showdowns and confetti that will you have kicking, wincing, howling, whistling, and clapping for more.
Rodriguez, sharing his writer/director/cinematographer/editor/score chair with co-director Ethan Maniquis, script writer Alveno Rodriguez, editor Rebecca Rodriguez, and cinematographer Jimmy Lindsey. It’s a block party of filmmakers that bring a lot of energy and color to the creative table, creating an environment that is part grindhouse fun and part family affair.
As the idea of Machete came out of Rodriguez’s head 15 years ago during Desperado, we now see another possible tough character actor, Michelle Rodriguez, becoming another one of his modern day folk hero characters of SHE — a legendary Mexican freedom fighter or quasi female counter part to iconic Che Guevera. You know he is onto something here when Rodriguez’s character gets the audience roar of approval next to a bland Alba applause. It’s something to look forward to in the Troublemaker future of cartoon movies.
The movie itself is more fun watching than really talking about with all its beheading and rocket-filled low riders. The first part is the most uninhibited fun, with the mixture of grindhouse type violence with political undertones that include a running gag of xenophobic political ads, not unlike something Sarah Palin would pay for.
By the time the climax hits, there are so many characters and elements played out that they all collide in a Looney Tunes-type carnival ride of guns and cars that doesn’t come to a solid conclusion. It even seems that Machete is lost at times in the battle between characters and screen time.
Yet Rodriguez and crew give us a something to chew on as we face a time of terrible racism and actions, all the while punching it with one-of-a-kind performances and action moments.
Grade: B +