Review: ‘Machete’

Machete don’t text, but he will hack your limbs off.

As per the fake trailer that appeared in Grindhouse, Machete (Danny Trejo) is “an ex-Federale (who) launches a brutal rampage of revenge against his former boss… after being betrayed by the organization who hired him.” With a corrupt congressmen (Robert De Niro) out for re-election, a henchman (Jeff Fahey) trying to do damage control, and an ICE agent (Jessica Alba) looking to crack her first big case, the tale of “Uncle Machete” will finally be told.

Before watching this film, I read a fellow critic’s review and asked them, “Are Glenn Beck and Bill O Reilly actually in this movie somewhere, or did you devote three paragraphs towards a political posturing that will likely make no sense to anyone who reads this review a few years from now?” This is in reference to the current discussions regarding enforcement of the U.S. Southern border where Mexican drug cartels are killing officials and citizens are fleeing for their lives only to be turned away or later deported back to where they started. To my surprise, there was actually a very good reason for mentioning Beck and O Reilly as they are both current media personalities who are very outspoken as to their views on the subjects of immigration, law enforcement, and sovereignty.

What was the reason? Everything that wasn’t in the original Machete trailer is padded with aspects of this issue. Bits included introducing a revolutionary battle babe (Michelle Rodriguez) running an underground railroad out of Mexico, showing racist gunman (led by Don Johnson) patrolling the border to murder immigrants crossing illegally, and even the clever suggestion that a border wall would actually help an enterprising cartel (headed by Steven Seagal) to charge a higher price for their drugs due to stricter access. About the only thing missing is a clip of Mexican President Felipe Calderon addressing the US congress to call the Arizona immigration law “racial profiling” while remaining strangely quiet about why his fellow citizens are fleeing his country in droves to begin with.

Unlike the Robert Rodreguez’s former Grindhouse film entry Planet Terror, the remainder of Machete seems to be written around working in the money shots from the trailer with only incidental explanations as to why. For a film intentionally attempting to be an exploration film so bad that it’s accidentally good, conforming to the fake trailer feels as though it hampered the finished film more than it sparked creative opportunity. Fun lines and additional performances from Cheech Marin and even Lindsay Lohan keep the film moving along, but it still feels like it could have been better if the original trailer were simply thrown out.

Finally, here’s a suggestion for the inevitable sequel: Machete teams up with El Mariachi and Machine Gun Leg Girl to liberate Mexico by destroying all the cartels, then takes over North America to create a Utopian society where everyone is free and Taco Bell becomes the only restaurant (no, wait… never mind, that was the plot of Demolition Man.)

(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)

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