‘Machete’ Is Balls to the Wall Action
The 2010 summer movie season sucked. No, no, it’s true. Despite the anomalies of Toy Story 3 and Inception, this season’s offerings was a giant parade of mediocrity which will one day be known as “The Summer of Movie Meh.” From the failed shock-and-awe of Iron Man 2, to the ’80s nostalgia parade with The Karate Kid and The A-Team, to Angelina Jolie as the toughest person ever, ever in Salt, this season has been a huge disappointment.
Then Machete happened.
Machete is why I love movies; gratuitous yet imaginative action, memorable one-liners and an inescapable sense of danger. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a b*lls-to-the-wall, in-your-face action movie. Fused with delicious irony, insane moments and a potent mixture of delicious satire and dialogue, Machete…is…awesome.
Based on the fake trailer that was included in the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse package (Planet Terror from Rodriguez, Death Proof from Tarantino) from 2007, Machete is made to look like a grainy relic from “back in the day” though not nearly as much as Planet Terror. (No missing reel gags or cigarette burns as cue marks this time.) Danny Trejo is Machete, the ex-federal forced to escape Mexico after the brutal slaying of his family at the hands of Torrez (Steven Seagal), a Mexican drug Kingpin. On the lam, Machete becomes a day laborer in Austin. After showcasing some of his arse-kicking abilities in a fight, he garners the attention of Booth (Jeff Fahey), a mysterious figure in the Texas’ political scene.
Machete is hired to plug a bullet into Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), an immigration-hardliner seeking a second term in the state senate. When not stumping for his re-election, McLaughlin enjoys late-night jeep rides with a right-wing nutcase (Don Johnson) who hunts illegal immigrants on the border.
As Machete has McLaughlin in his sights, another assassin puts a bullet in Machete’s shoulder, wounding our hero. The assassin then fires off another shot into McLaughlin, framing our hero.
Double-crossed and framed, Machete is declared the assassin by local media and is, again, on the run. With the help of Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), the owner of a popular taco truck and an underground network of illegal immigrant sympathizers, Machete starts tracking down Booth.
Meanwhile, ICE agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) is in pursuit of Machete and is looking to bring down, not only the blade-wielding anti-hero, but Luz’s entire network. Booth is also on the hunt for Machete, that is when he’s not dealing with his daughter April’s (Lindsay Lohan) career choices.
Machete may very well be the first mainstream movie to dive head-on into Mexsploitation. As blaxsploitation films in the ’70s railed against “whitey,” corruption and drugs, Machete takes aim at…well, the same stuff. A “broken” U.S. immigration system, the influence of drug cartels on both sides of the border, vigilante border enforcement and the irony of decrying the Mexican influence on the United States while enjoying a shot of tequila. Bloody (an understatement) and crude, Machete captures the gritty grind-house flavor of over-the-top fight scenes, ridiculous plot devices and left-field nudity with a kid-like zeal. Unlike the 2009 gem Black Dynamite, Machete isn’t a campy tribute to X-sploitation films. Rather than a wink to audiences, Rodriguez, and co-scribe and cousin Álvaro Rodríguez, take the genre’s staples and fashion their own entry with absolute success and without a nugget of pretentiousness.
It’s a ride.