Movie Review: Machete (2010)

Danny Trejo in Machete
Photo: 20th Century Fox

My interest in seeing Robert Rodriguez’s grindhouse feature (co-directed by Ethan Maniquis) Machete was limited. When the faux trailer accompanied the Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature in 2007 it was funny, but I never took it seriously or considered it as anything more than a comical interlude. Now, it’s a reality and my tune has changed. Audiences ready for what Machete has to offer are going to eat this film up.

If you wanted more of what that fake trailer offered that’s exactly what you’re getting. More blood. More beheadings. More gore. More nudity. Just plain more. Best of all is that it actually has a story (slim as it may be), and even more surprising is most of the scenes from the fake trailer carry over into the real film. I can only assume, had Grindhouse done better in theaters, Rodriguez would have got this film to the big screen much sooner. In fact, had this been his half of the Grindhouse double-feature it may have done better business to begin with.

Machete features the weathered Danny Trejo as the title character, an ex-Federale now living in Texas working as a day laborer when he’s approached to assassinate a crooked US Senator (Robert De Niro). Machete accepts the job and the $150,000 payment, but soon comes to find — courtesy of a bullet in his shoulder — the hire was a double-cross to boost the Senator’s declining numbers as he runs a campaign hell bent on rounding up illegal aliens and “securing” the US border.

Double-crossed and left for dead, Machete begins working with an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent (Jessica Alba) and a group known as The Network led by Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) whose day job is a taco stand worker. Together, this group sets out to expose the Senator and his aid, or in Machete’s case, kill everyone in his way.

Others that get involved include an over the top right wing border patrol lieutenant played by Don Johnson, Steven Seagal plays a samurai-wielding drug lord in cahoots with Texas politicians, Cheech Marin plays a gun-toting priest and Lindsay Lohan steps up as the coked out daughter of the Senator’s aid (Jeff Fahey) and bares all in a “love scene” of sorts involving both her onscreen mother and Machete. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie and everyone involved was up for the fun and you better be too because if you get the right audience it’s going to get rowdy.

Rodriguez penned the script with his cousin Alvaro Rodriguez and on top of maintaining the grindhouse B-movie feel it is awash in B-movie gore and over the top situations. If you’re trying to picture what I’m talking about, just imagine where a naked girl would hide a cell phone. Or imagine Machete surrounded by five guys with heads and then seconds later imagine him surrounded by five guys without heads. Whatever you do don’t picture Machete sending a text message. Because, as Machete says, “Machete don’t text.”

Machete arrives with plenty of current affairs chatter to make it relevant, more so than you would ever assume possible considering it’s a movie with a chief desire for blood and gore above telling a story. But the fact a story exists at all and holds itself together is what makes the film enjoyable. Had this simply been a guy running around killing people and using their large intestine as a rappelling device, it may have served a certain kind of audience, but considering there is just that sliver of something to hold onto makes all the difference.

Grab a group of friends and perhaps have a few drinks beforehand (provided you’re “of age” of course) and prepare yourself for straight-up madness.