GENRE: Mexploitation grindhouse flick
THE PITCH: A sinister businessman (Jeff Fahey) hires Mexican day laborer Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) to assassinate an anti-immigrant state senator (Robert De Niro), unaware that Machete's a vengeful ex-federale whom the bad guys can't stop and the women can't resist.
MONEY SHOTS: Machete crushes a cell phone in his hand while en route to a rescue. Machete decapitates four bad guys at once in one circular motion. The senator's campaign commercials and an animated demo of an electrified border fence are hilariously cheesy. Machete wins a street fight while eating a burrito. An army of dishwashers, ice cream vendors and other undocumented workers join Machete for the final battle.
BEST BAD LINE: "Exploding houses, bodies falling from the sky? Holy shit, Machete, you're a walking shit magnet."
WORST BAD LINE: "Machete don't text," Machete tells ICE agent Jessica Alba in a too self-conscious catch phrase.
ANCHOR-BABY LINE: "If it's born here, it gets to be a citizen," Don Johnson's evil vigilante says after gunning down a pregnant woman attempting to cross the border.
GOOD LINE, BAD DELIVERY: "We didn't cross the border — the border crossed us!" exclaims Alba in a big speech that doesn't exactly make you forget Denzel Washington as Malcolm X.
BODY COUNT: It seems like hundreds, with an explosive showdown hitting about every 10 minutes, but probably is less than 50. Memorable murder weapons include Alba's stiletto heels and a bouncing "low-rider" vehicle. A pointless reference to the length of human intestines sets up an outrageously grisly escape scene. Machete's brother, a priest (Cheech Marin) meets his fate in a sequence that could be called The Passion of the Cheech.
CREATIVE CASTING: Lindsay Lohan seems out of place as Fahey's substance abusing daughter, but Steven Seagal and Johnson prove quite entertaining as B-movie bad guys, kind of reminiscent of John Saxon and Joe Don Baker, respectively. Splatter effects artist Tom Savini and Predators director Nimrod Attal have small roles as hired muscle.
FLESH FACTOR: A totally naked chick overpowers Machete early on. Machete woos a topless mother-and-daughter twosome, then (gently) kidnaps them. Alba poses nude in the shower. Michelle Rodriguez reveals a totally cut abdomen when she appears at the big finale.
DETECTING A THEME HERE: At Machete's big finale, Rodriguez sports an eye patch and a massive automatic weapon. At the big finale of Planet Terror, Rose McGowan sported a missing leg and an even bigger automatic weapon. I guess Rodriguez has a "type."
POLITICS: Machete does for illegal immigration what 1970s blacksploitation films did for bigotry and race relations. The politics aren't subtle, but at least the film confronts America with its hypocrisies about illegals while selling Machete as an image of machismo a la John Shaft.
BETTER THAN THE TRAILER? No. Machete originated as a hilarious fake trailer attached to the movie Grindhouse. Rodriguez overinflates the film to feature length, making it surprisingly flabby and unfocused. Machete's real red-band trailer rivals the original, at least.
THE BOTTOM LINE: With the exception of the delightful Spy Kids series, Robert Rodriguez's films always start out like ingenious tributes to cheesy genres, but end up indistinguishable from le cinema du fromage. Trejo's performance gets shoved to the margins in favor of tedious, repetitive scenes involving the bigger stars. The film's prologue, though, is uproariously over the top in the best ways, but it writes a check that the rest of the film can't cash.
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