Between Sin City, Planet Terror and the Mariachi trilogy, Robert Rodriguez hasn't been too concerned with making statements—unless that statement is how cool it looks when a head goes "splat." So it's surprising when Machete—arguably Rodriguez's most gleefully trashy and violent offering—literally puts bullets in the hot-button immigration debate.
Clearly, Machete's tagline applies to its director. Anti-immigration blowhards have fucked with the wrong Mexican.
Inspired by the fake "Mexploitation" trailer Rodriguez created for Grindhouse, Machete is a kick in the cojones that begins with multiple decapitations and never eases up. As in Grindhouse, Rodriguez and co-director Ethan Maniquis are paying homage to trash cinema, only this time it's less of a masturbatory geek-out than a bloody, goofy riot putting the innovation in evisceration. Just watch our hero use entrails to swing like Tarzan, or beat a guy's ass with a weed-whacker ("I'm the new gardener," he growls).
As Machete, walking hunk of leather Danny Trejo—the go-to man for any script calling for a "scary fucking Mexican"—is badass personified. With a permanent scowl slapped on a face craggier than desert rock, he's walks the walk, tongue placed in scarred cheek. The film has fun with his snarly demeanor, presenting him as a sex magnet who beds every woman he sees—including topless meth addict Lindsay Lohan (typecasting?)—to a sleazy porn soundtrack.
The rest of the cast is incidental, but hysterical. Rodriguez has assembled the perfect ensemble by intentionally miscasting. Steven Seagal (so that's why he wasn't in The Expendables) chomps scenery as the cartel lord who kills Machete's wife and ignites his bloody quest. Don Johnson shows up as a vigilante border guard allied with a scummy senator (Robert De Niro). Michelle Rodriguez adds sizzle as a Latina Harriet Tubman figure—if Harriet Tubman rocked a leather bikini.
As usual, Rodriguez trips over too many characters and loses focus as the final confrontation approaches—it's a battle between rednecks and day laborers complete with bouncing El Caminos and bludgeoning by rake. But this time it's forgivable. Machete is funny, nasty, smart and sexy as hell. Don't be surprised if Machete shows up in Arizona for the character's next outing. R.
Opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Eastport, Cinema 99, Cinetopia, City Center, Cornelius, Evergreen, Hilltop, Living Room Theaters, Lloyd Center, Oak Grove, Sandy, Sherwood, Tigard and Wilsonville.