‘Machete’ cuts out weekend competition with B-movie thrills, bloody vengeance
Machete Grade: B
If you want to enjoy a deep, compelling movie that explores the depths of the human soul, then you should not go see “Machete.”
This is the B-movie of B-movies, with a plethora of high-profile Hollywood actors excelling at making a movie that does not take itself seriously in any capacity. Robert DeNiro, Lindsay Lohan, Jeff Fahey (Captain Lapidus from “Lost”), Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal and Jessica Alba are among the well-known actors and actresses who appear throughout the film.
Danny Trejo plays the title character, Machete, reprising the role introduced in the fake “Machete” trailer in the Quentin Tarantino movie “Grindhouse” back in 2007. (If you did not see the trailer, Trejo played a “rated M for Manly (and Machete),” who is described as “FBI, CIA., DEA; all rolled into one.”) In the new film, Machete is portrayed as a badass Federale with a strict moral code who is betrayed while trying to rescue a kidnapping victim from the super-mega-evil drug lord, Torrez (Seagal). Machete’s wife is murdered while he is wounded and left for dead.
The film then introduces Sheriff Von (“Miami Vice”), an anti-immigrant zealot that you will love to hate. After shooting a pregnant woman, he justifies it with, “…otherwise Texas will become Mexico again.” This also introduces Sen. McLaughlin (DeNiro), who rode along with the vigilantes in order to make himself look good. It is the first of many allusions to the real-life immigration debate — thoroughly mocked from beginning to end in the film.
Machete emerges later in the film as a day laborer in Texas. He is approached by spin doctor/local businessman Michael Benz (Fahey) who offers Machete $150,000 to kill Sen. McLaughlin. Much in the same way the fake “Machete” trailer played, Machete finds out he is double-crossed and that Benz is a false flag working with ulterior motives.
Lúz (Rodriguez), a revolutionary hiding as a taco vendor butts heads with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) — the obligatory “good guy” cop. Throughout “Machete,” Sartana expresses frustration with her current “low-man on the totem pole” position while displaying the subtle girl-next-door charm that Alba is known for. Sartana’s charm is the only thing that is subtle in the entire movie — everything else bluntly hits the audience over the head. These characters, like virtually all of the supporting cast, jump in and out of the film like the proper plot devices they are.
Sartana sees Machete among a group of day laborers and decides that he is worth investigating, and it is not long before she discovers the ex-cop’s past. The two spend a lot of time together trying to get to the bottom of Benz’ rabbit hole, and it’s soon very clear that every villain in “Machete” is connected in one way or another. Even Lohan does her job well, playing a diversion as April Benz, an Internet celebrity with a penchant for methamphetamines and lewd behavior.
“Machete” is filled with clichés: porno music at random intervals, Catholic priests (Cheech Marin) with guns, lines like “God has mercy — I don’t,” twin nurses in tight outfits (a shout out to “Grindhouse”), anti-heroes with one eye and amusing fourth-wall breaking. These very clichés are what make “Machete” a worthwhile film. Every scene is over-glorified, gratuitous and cheesy, which is generally what people expected from this macho epic.
“Machete” is exceptionally gratuitous — it is bursting with smutty, gruesome, violent, cartoonish bloodshed and nothing is sacred. Director Robert Rodriguez pulls few punches in making sure this film does not take itself too seriously; everything that is bad about this movie is done intentionally. For those squeamish or sensitive about religion, think twice before seeing this movie, but keep in mind that the scene of a man shooting a Gatling gun on a motorcycle over an explosion scene is still out there, and it is fantastic.
“Machete” is now open in theaters.