Machete

Movie Information

The Story: A former Mexican federale gets tied into a violent plot to knock off a racist Texas senator. The Lowdown: An absurdly violent, over-the-top action movie that manages to be both topical and fun, making for the best pure action movie of the year.
Score:

Genre: Absurdist Action Comedy
Director: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey
Rated: R

Director Robert Rodriguez began making films as a kid in his backyard, and it would seem that he has spent an entire career trying to get back to that. There isn’t a director working today who seems to have as much fun—and have the talent to back it up and make it worthwhile—as Rodriguez. Good for him for figuring out a means of making a living off making films his way. His latest, Machete, might best be described as Rodriguez finally and wholeheartedly transforming the loopy fun of his Spy Kids films into something for adult audiences. That he’s managed to do this in the most ridiculous and agreeably tasteless way imaginable is all the better.

While longtime Rodriguez collaborator and editor Ethan Maniquis is given a co-director credit for the film, Machete is still Rodriguez’s brainchild. The original idea for the film began gestating in 1995 during the filming of Desperado, where Rodriguez first met star Danny Trejo and wanted to create a vehicle for the actor he describes as a “Mexican Charles Bronson.” Then, 12 years later, a fake trailer for Machete ended up on the beginning of the Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double feature Grindhouse and the positive response led to a full-blown feature.

Machete continues the tradition created by Rodriguez’s half of the double-feature Grindhouse, Planet Terror, by being an homage to ‘70s exploitation B cinema. However, Machete is never a parody of such films (this is where a lot of other films that attempt to do the same thing fail), and it’s not a movie riddled with in-jokes and obscure references. Rather, it acts more as an opportunity for the man to revel in absurdity and the inherent cheesiness that’s cropped up in all of Rodriguez’s films, but in a completely unapologetic manner.

The film is the one promised by the original fake trailer, with Danny Trejo as Machete, a supposed Mexican day laborer who is hired by a shady political aide (Jeff Fahey, Grindhouse) to knock off a racist senator (Robert De Niro), only to be double-crossed and left for dead. The only problem is that Machete is a former federale and a very difficult man to kill and he is soon on the warpath for revenge.

The film is incredibly violent and gory, but in a splatstick kind of manner, where the multiple acts of egregious bodily harm are for the sole purpose of black humor—never is the violence used in an uncomfortable or disgusting manner. A lot of it is about the way in which the violence occurs, since we’re talking about a hero who offs bad guys with everything from cooking utensils to a Weed Eater. Machete nevertheless revels in its own preposterousness and bad taste. From the moment we find out where a nude hostage is hiding her cell phone at the beginning of the film—or after seeing Steven Seagal as a Mexican druglord—we know what kind of movie we’re in for, and it’s all combined with the usual Rodriguez wit and imagination.

While this is probably Rodriguez’s most ludicrous film, it’s also his most topical. The entire movie is about Mexican immigration into the U.S., and it’s depicted in the most blatant way possible. There’s nothing subversive about what Rodriguez is saying, with racist rednecks patrolling the border and politicians using immigration as a political tool.

Maybe the most surprising thing about the film is how good the performances are. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez have never been so palatable, while a small role by Don Johnson is almost enough to make you forget Nash Bridges ever existed. Even Steven Seagal is surprisingly fun on occasion. And that’s what Machete is really about: a movie where everyone involved is honestly enjoying themselves. Of course, the film’s brand of preposterousness won’t be to everyone’s liking. Still, it’s a hard movie not to enjoy—as long as you’re on its same gory wavelength. Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity.

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22 thoughts on “Machete

  1. TonyRo

    I loved it, but felt like the political agenda was more important to Rodriguez than having fun. Hopefully the inevitable sequel will tone it down a bit.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I loved it, but felt like the political agenda was more important to Rodriguez than having fun.

    I can’t say it bothered me — and it’s a good fit, since exploitation has a long history of “subversive” messages.

  3. GP

    THIS MOVIE ABSOLUTELY ROCKED…THE POLITICAL AGENDA IS RIGHT ON POINT TO….AMERICA WAS FOUNDED BY PEOPLE FROM OTHER PLACES….WHO..IF YOU REMEMBER…DID NOT COME IN PEACE AND STOLE THIS LAND FROM IT’S RIGHTFUL PEOPLE.
    MAKE NO FURTHER MISTAKES THAT THE NATIVE AMERICANS ARE THE MEXICANS TO…THEY ARE ALL RELATED…WE ARE ALL RELATED. BRAVO TO DE NIRO FOR PLAYING THE “BUSH”CHARACTER…MY FAVORITE IS THE LOW-RIDER CULTURE STUFF AT THE…ALMOST A SPOILER…SORRY…GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!!1

  4. Matt Mercy

    Racial killings are fun and kitch! After all, Justin says, “—never is the violence used in an uncomfortable or disgusting manner.” You see, Justin is an expert on the Plan of San Diego and the La Reconquista and he understands that this film could never incite real-world violence on either side of the illegal alien (mostly from Mexico) debate.

  5. Ken Hanke

    this film could never incite real-world violence

    Oh, please. Anyone incited to violence by this movie was already there. Have you actually seen this movie?

  6. Justin Souther

    Justin is an expert on the Plan of San Diego and the La Reconquista and he understands that this film could never incite real-world violence on either side of the illegal alien (mostly from Mexico) debate.

    I wasn’t aware that you’re two examples were put into motion because of cheesy action movies, but I do stay awake at night worrying about being trampled to death by a lowrider.

  7. Dionysis

    “this film could never incite real-world violence”

    “Oh, please. Anyone incited to violence by this movie was already there. Have you actually seen this movie?”

    You know he hasn’t. He’s too busy watching whackjob Alex Jones’ latest self-promoting conspiracy video.

  8. Ken Hanke

    Is this better than Black Dynamite?

    No one I know of has seen both. You could break that pattern!

  9. luluthebeast

    Loved the movie but thought Segal was his usual bland self. I think he needs to go all Henry Silva in these roles and just be wonderfully over the top.

  10. Tomislav Pijonsnodt

    Racial killings are fun and kitch!

    Your disgust is understandable, but as a shareholder in the Carlyle Group, I’d like to assure you that our satellite fleet and the cameras on every street corner will soon obviate violence of any kind.

    Except, of course, for the violence your every utterance inflicts upon the noble art of rhetoric.

  11. GP

    BLACK DYNAMITE AND MACHETE….DOUBLE BILL…THAT WOULD BE COOL. ONLY BETTER THAN BLACK DYNAMITE CAUSE RODRIGUEZ GOT DE NIRO AND CHEECH IN THE SAME MOVIE…BUT…BLACK DYNAMITE WAS AWESOME BECAUSE ITS BUDGET WAS REALLY CLOSE TO THE WAY IT WAS IN THE SEVENTIES…SO VERY LOW…I WANT MORE OF THESE KINDS OF MOVIES. REALLY “BAD”- GOOD MOVIES.

  12. luluthebeast

    “Is this better than Black Dynamite?:

    When the top is popped the panties drop!

    I think Machete is better.

  13. luluthebeast

    On second thought, it’s MUCH better than Black Dynamite!

  14. DrSerizawa

    Machete is chock full of awesome awesomeness! It’s 70s exploitation done as it would have been done if that sort of budget was available. The “rope trick” was totally wonderful. It was great right down to the stupid political message than only an idiot could take seriously.

    However, even though Machete‘s awesomeness in general is better than Black Dynamite‘s I have to give Black Dynamite credit for a more awesome ending. Machete‘s ending was predictable. Black Dynamite‘s was the best blaxpoitation ending ever.

    Both deserve Academy nods. How many other movies pack that much pure entertainment?

  15. DrSerizawa

    Pssst. BTW. The Spanish stole the Americas too. Glass houses and all that.

  16. Sorry. I loved Machete, but I LOVED Black Dynamite.
    BD is a wonderful sly parody, like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. Machete wears it more on its sleeve, but it was a bloody sleeve.

  17. Ken Hanke

    I don’t really see the advantage of being a “sly parody” when you’re working in exploitation. I suspect I will end up prefering MACHETE if I ever compare the two.

  18. I don’t really see the advantage of being a “sly parody” when you’re working in exploitation. I suspect I will end up prefering MACHETE if I ever compare the two.

    That settles it. I’ll be screening Black Dynamite next month.

  19. Ken Hanke

    That settles it. I’ll be screening Black Dynamite next month.

    Where? And, by the way, I need to get Phenomena from you.

  20. I, personally, thought BLACK DYNAMITE was a bit more clever and subversive than MACHETE…funnier, too. However, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of MACHETE in the least. They would indeed make an excellent double-bill.

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