Monday, September 6, 2010

Machete is bloody exploitation to the bone

If you saw Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse (2007), and since it was a major flop, you may not have, maybe you know that Machete originates as one of the fake trailers in that throwback to 70s exploitation double bills. Now a feature length film from 20th Century Fox and with a big name cast, Machete still retains it's gritty and ultra violent B-movie motif.

Danny Trejo, a Charles Bronsonesque character actor who has worked with Robert Rodriguez (who co-directed this with his editing partner Ethan Maniquis) several times. Now Trejo gets his turn to shine in his first lead role, letting his scowl and scarred face do most of the acting as he conveys real convincing menace with few words and some real understated intimidation.

Machete is an honorable Federale whose wife and child are murdered by the evil Mexican drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal, a near equal to Trejo in the speak softly and scowl roughly department.) Machete then jumps the border into Texas and crosses paths with two sexy women: one, a taco truck operator who moonlights as the leader of a network of border jumpers (Michelle Rodriguez) and a U.S. Immigration agent with Mexican roots (Jessica Alba) who is torn between following the rules and helping her poor native countrymen find a better life in the States. A threat to this is a slimeball state senator (Robert DeNiro) whose racism and anti-immigration stances are not at all hidden in his re-election campaign and his vicious aide (Jeff Fahey) who gets Machete to be the patsy for a staged assassination attempt on the senator, which sets up a war against disenfranchised illegal aliens and fierce Texans. Also in the colorful cast of characters is a murderous border patrol cop (Don Johnson) Fahey's drug addled sexpot daughter (Lindsey Lohan) a gun toting padre (Cheech Marin) and even horror movie legend Tom Savini shows up as a hired assassin.

The cast has real fun getting their hands dirty in the elaborate gore and over the top comedic violence and sex. Mexican stereotypes are also part of the savagely blunt satire. Machete is really a joyful live action comic book that is rich in wonderfully vulgar humor and abundant in dismemberment and murder with various sharp garden and medical tools. The human intestines also play a helpful role in helping the hero escape out of a window.

Rodriguez knows how to stage skillful, modestly budgeted and efficient action pics. He has always had a sly sense of innovation and resourcefulness that dates back to his $7,000 debut feature El Mariachi (1992). He's not subtle, but never boring.

Machete works as a violent comedy disguised as a political action movie. It's ballsy and very ridiculous but gleefully fun.

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