Movie Review: Machete (2010)
If I am supposed to have tremendous respect for a movie where a naked woman is rescued, then takes down her rescuer with his own blade, and then proceeds to pull a cellphone out of her vagina and call for backup, I'm totally on board with that. I have as much respect for that as I do for Seagal playing the bad guy he was destined to play in the character of Torrez, a connected drug-lord, with (Cheryl Chin) an attractive, Asian, Uzi-wielding, sidekick henchwoman.
Seagal has been preoccupied with projects like "Lawman" for far too long and not working on being the bad guy he could be. Seagal is in good company in a movie where corrupt senators, like John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) and rogue border patrol agents, like Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson) are executing their own sense of justice on illegal aliens who try to cross the border.
Machete (Danny Trejo) is our hero and man of the hour with a mug that can pass for a prison inmate, a gardener, a soldier, a career criminal, or a desperate border-hopper who is hard up for work and wanting a better life. After the violent deaths of his wife and daughter at the hands of the corrupt Torrez, the ex Federale is out of work, out of luck, and without purpose until he comes across Booth (Jeff Fahey), an unsuspected agent of Torrez and a Catholic who regularly confesses to his priest (Cheech Marin) that he has sexual feelings for his daughter, April (Lindsey Lohan).
When not cooking Mexican food and getting exercise playing video games, Sartana (Jessica Alba) is keeping a close eye on Texas by looking for undocumented workers. She frequents a taco truck, a known hang-out for illegals, operated by Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a seductively sexy cook with her own Latino version of an "underground railroad" to go with the tortas and bean and cheese tacos.
Sartana runs into Machete at the much-frequented truck that plays an almost humorous role in the turn of events, as she begins to watch a dejected Machete be recruited by Booth to dish out hurt on McLaughlin. From there, the story takes off towards its messy but memorable conclusion.
Machete is a perfectly paced work of art—so ugly that it's beautiful and so deformed by left-wing "hot button" political mock-agendas that it will make many viewers angry enough to quit watching before giving it a chance. The solid structural support of the plot and the matching complexity of the narrative create an admirably built work that passes as compelling and shocking, with an ample supply of gore, slapstick humor, and a general irreverence.
Careful not to be flattened by liberal politics, the easily mocked stereotypes of bucktoothed and knot-kneed cowboys who boast about their gun-toting while chasing Mexicans off of their lands are lampooned to the hilt, but the door hits those on the ass who stand atop cars that jump from modified hydraulics and holler: "We didn't cross the border! The border crossed us!"
Machete the man is a broken man, with a fondness for sharp weapons—most particularly, the machete (no surprise there). Not since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has a mortal man been so primed and readied for slashing out entrails and throats or stabbing out eyes. This man is the Mexican William Munny, and every bit as lucky.
Machete the movie is the embodiment of exploitation, the product of sizzling star power, with gobs of sleaze, leaps and bounds of cheap and sloppy gore, mindlessly macho attitudes to go with the fighting, and bizarre stunts, with comedic outbursts that take full advantage of the opportunity for strong-handed satire. You can't tell me that that's not worth a Mexican meal or two.
A crowd of illegals scurrying away at the approach of a beautiful female border patrol agent is funny. And you hear the same regurgitated hackneyed responses from the all-too-real immigration debate: "This state runs on illegal labor. We bust that up and we're fucked!" With such controversial and controvertible statements, you had better be able to suspend your political convictions for an eye-watering laugh or three.
What starts with Robert De Niro made to look like a Bush-ified, ham-fisted, right-wing politician who cares about those who put him in office about as much as he does a cockroach platter, ends up with the insults flying back every which way. Sartana says to Machete: "Laws are enforced here. People control them, not drug-lords." In any other context, much of what you hear would be insulting, but not here. Here, it makes you laugh, perhaps even sigh.
Machete features an assortment of delightfully complex characters that in any universe would be hard to pair up. As expected, the bad guys don't care about anybody - not each other and barely themselves - and everyone on screen sums up hypocrisy, a besetting flaw of some kind, or a stereotype that takes its turn standing in the firing line.
Nobody is real, just like the stunts and the action, which is how it so easily puts a smile on your face. The hit-men have their own 800-numbers. There is a seductively cheesy erotic flair between Trejo and Alba. It, too, is intended as a contrast, just like the sight of served-up, tasty "hole-in-the-wall" Mexican food, voided by un-toppable tastelessness and undying debauchery. And that, friends, is exactly the way it was supposed to be!
Grade: A+ (4 stars) Recommended!
Rated: R (for violence, nudity, drugs, adult language, and adult situations)
Directors: Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez
Summary: After being betrayed by the organization who hired him, an ex-Federale launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss.
Starring: Danny Trejo "Machete," Robert De Niro "Senator McLaughlin," Jessica Alba "Sartana," Steven Seagal "Torrez," Michelle Rodriguez "Luz," Jeff Fahey "Booth," Cheech Marin "Padr," Don Johnson "Lt. Stillman," Shea Whigham "Sniper," Lindsay Lohan "April," Cheryl Chin "Torrez Henchwoman," Daryl Sabara "Julio," Gilbert Trejo "Jorge"
Genre: Action / Adventure / Crime / Thriller