2:1 (4/5)

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessican Alba, Lindsay Lohan, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Michelle Rodriguez & Jeff Fahey

By Zander Sirlin

Raising his weapon of choice, “This is the boss” says Machete to his short-lived compadre as they drive into a wall of gun-toting goons.  Right from the get-go, Machete is balls-to-the-walls action.  The amount of death and nudity that ensues in just its hard-hitting first five minutes is greater than what most movies feature in their entirety.  Included in filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarrantino’s 2007 double-feature exploitation-cinema tribute Grindhouse was a joke trailer for Machete, then a non-existent movie.  The positive reaction to the trailer prompted Rodriguez to remake it as a feature length film.  If you, like me, were skeptical that the hilarity of the short original could successfully be expanded upon, I am happy to report that you need not worry. Sickeningly dirty, delightfully corny, and surprisingly topical, Machete is possibly Rodriguez’s best work.

Machete follows a Mexican federale who, after losing the lives of his wife and daughter to the hands of druglord Torrez (Steven Seagal), finds himself working as an illegal day laborer on the north side of the Rio Grande border.  One day he is given a job offer he cannot refuse to assassinate the radically anti-immigration politician McLoughlin (Robert DeNiro).  Machete is double-crossed while carrying out his task but as the original trailer suggested, “they just fucked with the wrong Mexican.”  Aided by taco-truckwoman/revolutionary Luz/Shé (Michelle Rodriguez), I.C.E agent Sartana (Jessica Alba), and his priest brother (Cheech Marin), Machete beds many women and spares few men in a bloody rampage against those who have wronged him.

Machete’s acting ensemble, which also includes Lindsey Lohan as Booth’s drug-addicted daughter and Don Johnson as a disturbed vigilante gang leader, is perfect despite seeming like an absurd mess of miscasts on paper.  An actual ex-con, 66-year-old Trejo still looks like he just walked out of prison.  Even though he has never fronted a cast before, he is the right hardman for the job.

Compared to the mostly wimpy action movies of recent memory, Machete is gorifically refreshing.  It manages to display great humor through its over the top approach whilst cleverly transcending the B-movies that inspired it.  For the better, it never becomes a complete joke.  Machete concludes with the promise of not one but two sequels; not an empty promise I hope.  I left the theater with an intense craving for a burrito and a smile that lasted for days.

The Machete Trailer