Hired to assassinate a politician, vigilante and ex-Federale Machete (Danny Trejo) nearly dies when a sniper shoots him during the job. Out for revenge, he’s joined by a reluctant old buddy (Cheech Marin) who’s become a pacifist priest. Written and co-directed by Robert Rodriguez, this homage to exploitation films based on his fake trailer in Grindhouse co-stars Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba and Steven Seagal.
Rating: 8 out of 10
No one else on the planet could have played Agent Machete other than Danny Trejo. He is the low-keyed, cool-as-ice bad ass with a scarred face and a body covered in tattoos. His delivery of this likable man who slashes bad guys in all kinds of disgustingly fun ways makes this movie successful.
This is an absurd action movie — as most are — but is done with a campy style, similar to “Grindhouse” where this movie spawned. It was a fake trailer that showed before the movie, also directed by Robert Rodriguez, and I was pumped to see it get its own feature-length film. Rodriguez is an intriguing director. He takes on action and horror films by and large but never loses his sense of humor. This movie is extraordinarily violent — there’s a scene where Machete cuts open a man’s stomach and uses his intestines like a rope to swing out a window — but it’s always with a tongue-in-cheek flair that made me laugh because it’s so impossible. It’s also a smart script with a fantastic cast — De Niro is in his element as the racist, Texas conservative hellbent on getting illegal aliens out, and Alba is sharp as a Latino immigration agent who is conflicted about busting her people. Michelle Rodriguez is her usual self as the tough and sexy leader of a network that helps immigrants get work and shelter. All of their worlds collide with a Mexican drug dealer played by Steven Seagal. The support roles were excellent. It was nice to see Don Johnson return in one of the most evil roles in the film and Cheech Marin’s character was a nice addition as Machete’s brother who is a priest.
Wrap a revenge action story and camp humor around a subtext of immigration and you’ve got a fun film that never loses its sense of self. It’s not for everyone, but if you liked “Grindhouse” and “Death Proof” or are a fan of 70s exploitation films, you’ll love this movie.