If you’ve been anxiously waiting since 2007′s Grindhouse to hand over some of your hard-earned pesos and witness the further exploits of ex-Federale agent Machete (Danny Trejo), then it hardly matters how any critic feels about the product.
In case you are still reading, fans of the character will be relieved to find exactly what they were hoping for, in some cases quite literally (with almost every shot from the fake Grindhouse trailer recreated). Machete is a B-movie thrill, deliriously gory and ridiculously over-the-top with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
“Machete doesn’t text” our über-grizzled title character states early on. What the hulking, old-school action hero does emphatically do is brutally execute just about every two-faced crook he comes in contact with. Of course, Machete is forced into his campaign of vengeance after being set up by the sneering, gravel-voiced businessman Booth (Jeff Fahey). Other bad guys in the mix include racist, trigger-happy border patrol lieutenant Stillman (Don Johnson), right-wing Texas Senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), Mexican drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal) and Osiris Ampanpour (Tom Savini), an assassin with a cheesy promotional video(!) for potential clients.
But Machete’s has even more remarkable talents. While he may not be much for conversation, with a few chosen words he manages to bed almost every woman he encounters. Amusingly, this includes the likes of Booth’s wife (Alicia Marek) and daughter April (a mostly naked Lindsay Lohan), as well as Shé/Luz (Michele Rodriguez), a revolutionary freedom fighter/taco truck entrepreneur, and sexy Immigration and Customs agent Sartana (Jessica Alba).
All this silliness is played solely for low-brow laughs. A film containing so many decapitations would have to be. Whether limbs are being severed, a diabolical, naked female is calling villains by pulling a cell phone out of a private orifice or an enemy is having his intestines tugged out of his body and used as a make-shift rope, the events are so gleefully presented with cartoon-like slapstick that they never approach offensiveness.
However, there are some flaws. The film abandons its old, worn print aesthetic after the rousing opening and title credit sequence. The slick and crisp video quality would have benefited more from a rougher appearance — the aged look tends to better mask the obvious computer-generated blood splatter — and the story is more of the unfocused jumble instead. As a result, the fates of some in the enormous cast (there are even more henchmen and characters than those mentioned above) are tied up too abruptly, honestly making it difficult to remember what the heck happened to everyone in the war path.
Still, these and other quibbles are minor when the feature itself is bursting with ideas and striving so single-mindedly to entertain in 70’s exploitation fashion. It’s almost impossible not to enjoy a movie featuring Cheech Marin as a shotgun-toting priest (who collects intelligence in confessionals) or De Niro dressed as a Mexican peasant in an undersized straw hat, laying waste to those around him. And, without giving away the specifics, the final scene featuring Seagal’s Torrez involves one of the funniest, most comically absurd sights to be seen in quite some time.
As strange as it may seem, with Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis’s Machete and the great guilty pleasure that is the Piranha 3D remake, two lower-budgeted August releases have finally provided the popcorn-munching fun that much of the summer season has sorely lacked.
4 out of 5