Back in 2007, Robert Rodriguez, director of “Spy Kids,” “Sin City” and “Desperado,” collaborated with fellow director Quentin Tarantino on the gloriously trashy film anthology “Grindhouse.” It basically was a three-hour homage to the blood-and-guts soaked cinema of the 1970s; a throwback to the glory days of the exploitation film, if you will. Now, three years later, Rodriguez continues that tradition with “Machete,” a chaotic, testosterone fueled action spectacle that is as hilarious as it is sickeningly violent.
Starting out as a fake trailer attached to “Grindhouse,” “Machete” definitely gets some points for featuring some of the most unexpected casting ever. Honestly, did you expect Robert De Niro to play the villain in a movie like this? The film also stars Danny Trejo as the titular character, an ex-federale who began making a living as a day laborer after his family members were killed. Steven Seagal plays Torrez, the ruthless Mexican drug lord who committed the murders.
After years of wandering, Machete is approached by a corrupt businessman named Booth (Jeff Fahey) and is offered a suitcase full of cash to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (De Niro). The senator also likes to spend his nights patrolling the border, shooting at any immigrant he can find. Machete reluctantly accepts the job, but is betrayed, shot and left for dead by Booth in an attempt to boost McLaughlin’s election chances by faking an assassination attempt. As expected, Machete survives, and then spends the rest of the film hunting down literally everyone who’s betrayed him, with a blade in hand and a permanent scowl on his face.
The best ways to describe Trejo in this film is to call him the Mexican equivalent of Charles Bronson: a perpetual tough guy who hides his viciousness under a quiet and stern demeanor. The film celebrates his badassery in almost every scene he’s in, daring the audience to sympathize with a man who chops his way through bad guys with ease.
A different actor might have gone too overboard with the character, turning him into a stiff, growling caricature of an action hero. Trejo, however, plays Machete with a bit of playfulness, refusing to make him too grim or over-the-top.
This is where the director succeeds the most with the film. Everybody in the cast knows exactly what kind of movie they’re in, and keep their tongues planted firmly in cheek. Rounding out the supporting cast is Jessica Alba as Machete’s love interest, Sartana, Michelle Rodriguez as Luz, a freedom fighter working as the proprietor of a taco truck, Lindsay Lohan as the businessman’s drug and sex addicted airhead of a daughter (I suppose sometimes art does imitate life!) and Cheech Marin as Machete’s brother, a foul mouthed, shotgun wielding priest (Yeah, you heard right).
Robert has crafted a film that is absolutely ballsy in its pursuit of making violence sickeningly funny. Sure, it’s gross, but it is so over-the-top that you cannot help but laugh whenever Machete carves up his enemies. Heads are lopped off, people are riddled with bullets and blood flows like water from a burst dam.
One scene in particular even caused me to never look at human intestines the same way again, but I won’t spoil the gory details. If there is one complaint I have with Machete, it is that the plot sometimes gets muddled in all the carnage. However, this is a relatively small complaint, as it doesn’t really take away from the experience as a whole.
“Machete” is an action-packed, broadly funny romp that sends the summer movie season out in style. It may not be for everyone, but if you desire a fun time at the movies, “Machete” comes highly recommended.