Jessica Alba stands naked in her bathroom. Lindsay Lohan and her on-screen mother, both naked, make out with Danny Trejo. Danny Trejo cuts out a man's intestines and uses them to swing to safety. Cheech Marin plays a priest who kills indiscriminately. Sound interesting? Sounds like Machete.
Machete, the uber-B-grade action film from director Robert Rodriguez (oh, and Ethan Maniquis), is full of gore, violence, nudity and more, heavy on cheesy dialogue and absurdly obsessed with ridiculous situations such as those described above. In other words, Machete is guilty pleasure ten times over, a movie that's hard not to love as long as you have the stomach to handle a man such as Machete.
Danny Trejo plays the title character in a movie based on a faux movie trailer that debuted during the Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature Grindhouse. A former federale, Machete finds himself on the wrong side of the law after he is framed for an assassination attempt on an anti-immigration proponent and U.S. congressman (Robert De Niro) by the man's aide (Jeff Fahey). Alba plays the U.S. immigration officer and Michelle Rodriguez the sexy underground fighter Machete joins forces with to bring the bad guys to justice; Lohan the drug-used, whorish daughter of the aide. Don Johnson and Steven Seagal also star.
Machete is camp ten times over, a movie that relishes in over-the-top, intentionally ridiculous scenes, dialogue and plot developments. Rodriguez does with Machete what he did with Planet Terror, down to the inconsistent film quality. Machete works because the worse it gets the better it gets, and the better it gets the more entertaining it is. It's a cult film from minute one and knows it, and delivers on its promise.
Sure, the movie isn't Oscar worthy. Trejo, who is almost always given thankless supporting roles, makes the best of his rare leading performance, even though he only says a few words (some of his best lines, though, are of few words: "Machete don't text" and "Machete improvises" will be used for years to come). Machete is a little slower than expected in the first half, and it could have been more absurd than it is without going overboard. Some of the subtle laughs Rodriguez evoked in Planet Terror, such as the film burning away just as the audience was going to see nudity, didn't make it to the final cut (instead, Rodriguez goes the other direction and presents Lindsay Lohan naked in most of her scenes).
But Machete isn't a movie you can pick at like that. There will be things you like and things you don't, but Machete is about the overall experience. Not everyone will like it and others will love it. For what it is, it works perfectly. Does that mean I think it's perfect? No. But Machete is fun, exciting and absurd, and a fresh of breath air after another disappointing summer.
Oh, and Steven Seagal's death scene is one of the best in recent memory.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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