September 3, 2010 Machete
Studio: 20th Century Fox Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.
Director Robert Rodriguez has been kicking around the story of "Machete" for years. He just never got around to telling it.
Rodriguez gave us a taste when he filmed the Grindhouse double feature with Quentin Tarantino. Sandwiched between the two films "Planet Terror" and "Death Proof" were several fake trailers.
One of them was about an ex-Mexican Federale named Machete. Response to the trailer was so positive, Rodriguez decided to make it into a feature length film.
Danny Trejo stars as Machete. After his family is killed by a Mexican drug lord (Steven Seagal), Machete makes his way to America. He lives in Texas as an illegal immigrint, taking odd jobs to survive.
But opportunity knocks when a slimy businessman named Mr. Booth (Jeff Fahey) offers Machete 150-thousand dollars to assassinate a Texas state politician.
Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) wants to expel all illegal immigrants and Booth wants him dead.
But Machete is the victim of a double cross. Booth has set him up and now he's on the run from both the bad guys and the police.
Soon, he comes across an Immigration Agent named Sartana (Jessica Alba). She is convinced of Machete's innocence and tries to help him, while also attempting to find "The Network", a group bringing illegal aliens across the border.
Machete vows vengeance on Booth and the blood starts to flow.
"Machete" certainly delivers on its promise of action. This is a very violent, very graphic film, with plenty of gratuitous nudity. It's shot in the "grindhouse" style of the 1970s and captures the feel of those old exploitation films.
Although he's had a steady career as a character actor and a bad guy, this is Trejo's breakout role. He's very good as as the no-holds barred ex-federal agent.
"Machete's" story is way over the top, so realistic performances aren't necessary. De Niro and Fahey are evil to the core...as is Seagal and Don Johnson, who plays a vigilante guarding the border.
Cheech Marin has a nice part as Machete's priest brother. Michelle Rodriguez is a taco stand cook sympathetic to the illegal's cause. She's also more than meets the eye. Lindsay Lohan shows up as a drugged-out teen wanting to make it big with her internet porn site.
And then there is Alba. Never accused of being a great actress, her Sartana is a bit wooden. But she's sincere and gorgeous so Alba gets a pass.
This is a gritty and dirty film. Rodriguez has a talent for action scenes and is also famous for making his actresses look stunning on the screen. He accomplishes both things here equally well.
Finally, while the illegal immigration issue is center stage and some poignant questions are asked about it, "Machete" is mostly escapist entertainment and a very wild ride.
On my rating scale, "Machete" earns a TRIPLE.
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