Thursday, September 16, 2010

"Machete" carves up bloody, hilarious fun


Machete (2010)
105 min., rated R.

Spinning off his brilliant mock trailer (“They just fucked with the wrong Mexican!”) created for 2007 double-feature schlock-palooza "Grindhouse," Robert Rodriguez mans his feature-length "Machete" with cousin Alvaro Maniquis. Machete (pronounced “ma-chet-ay”) is like the real grindhouse pulp he parodied, but done with such infectious spirit and loving skill that it's witty, gleefully violent, knowingly tawdry fun. 

Danny Trejo, the go-to Mexican, has such a craggy, scarred, hard-living face like Mickey Rourke and unsmiling gusto (“Machete don't text”) as the machete-wielding Machete that he makes badassery awesome. Three years ago, Machete was a federale that watched his wife get slaughtered by a Mexican kingpin (Steven Seagal with, yes, a Mexican accent and an Eddie Munster haircut). Now, he works as a day laborer on the Texan border, and hired by a shady political aide (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate a U.S. Senator (an amusingly hammy Robert De Niro), who's advocating against Mexican immigrants, but he's set up as a patsy, naturally. Being the warrior that he is, Machete goes on a rampage, with the help from a sexy immigration officer (Jessica Alba, who still can't act her out way out of a wet paper bag) and a taco-stand-vendor-by-day and underground revolutionary leader known as 'She' (Michelle Rodriguez who's getting better at lessening the scowling). 

Two-man-show Rodriguez and Maniquis go hog-wild with "Machete," exploding with blood splatter, explosions, gratuitous boob-baring, cheesy '70s music, and a gritty drive-in look not as ultra-aged as its trailer predecessor. Plus you've never seen the uproariously over-the-top way a man's intestine can be used until here. Everyone in the great, eclectic cast is placed to perfection, including re-introduced Don Johnson as a border vigilante, pre-slammer Lindsay Lohan as Fahey's drugged-up web-porn daughter who gets to don a nun's habit (how's that for typecasting?), and Cheech Marin who's a real hoot as Machete's gun-toting padre partner. 

"Machete" may be too much for one B movie, the political message is ham-fisted, and it all starts to wear itself out before the grande showdown. But although not suited for the easily offended or the humorless, if you're up for a cartoonishly bloody exploitation throwback such as this, you won't be able to resist a sense of giddiness when the kitschy final graphics come up and we're promised coming attractions: "Machete Kills" and "Machete Kills Again!" 

Grade: B +

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