Not just anyone can disembowel their enemy, yank out his intestines and jump out of a window, only to use said intestines as a rope to slingshot into a window one floor below. But Machete isn't just anyone. And that's not the most ridiculous thing you'll see in Machete, Robert Rodriguez' and Ethan Maniquis' feature-length expansion of the famed Grindhouse trailer.
Machete delivers everything it promised in that two minute or so long teaser, which was filmed several years before Machete even went into production. You see, the original trailer was used by Rodriguez as a test shoot for Planet Terror, and at the time of filming, it was only ever intended to be a trailer. After the resounding success of the trailer, it was decided to flesh out the film and make it into its own movie.
As a result, Rodriguez and Maniquis decided to incorporate almost all of the footage shot for the original trailer into the feature film, lending to a few moments where certain things, like the model and year of cars that Jeff Fahey drives, change erratically from shot to shot. Sure, it's a little jarring and puzzling, but you can hear the co-directors giggling to each other, "Oh man, this is just like those old crappy films we're parodying!"And there's one of the ways Machete both succeeds and fails simultaneously. I feel like every "grindhouse" movie Robert Rodriguez has made is more of a lampoon of the sordid genre than a celebration of it. While I enjoyed both Machete and Planet Terror, they're both a little too self-referential, as in they are aware that they're parodies. It's the difference between Twilight and Vampires Suck. One movie is hilarious because it's not trying to be, the other is simply not funny because it's trying too hard.
Regardless, Machete offers a lot of bang for your buck. Danny Trejo proves that he can hold a leading position, regardless of the fact that he's one-note and has the face of a bulldog, haphazardly sculpted out of granite and poorly sandblasted. But you can't help but love him, especially when he's slashing blades and beating people senseless with a weed whacker.
Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez are the two main women for Machete to bounce between, and even though Jessica Alba as an U.S. immigration enforcement officer is more believable, he does bed the girls. Also adding spice to the mix is a coked-out, topless Lindsay Lohan, proving that Lindz can laugh at herself and Rodriguez knows exactly how to exploit tabloid headlines. Cheech Marin returns as Padre, Machete's estranged priest brother, who not only has a crucifix of televisions, but also a hearse as a main form of transportation.
Add in a heap of Jeff Fahey, a dash of Don Johnson, a peppering of Steven Seagal and a whole pound of Robert De Niro doing an amazing southern accent, and you've got yourself a guaranteed good time. De Niro in particular gets to have fun with his role- a bigoted, egotistical senator up for re-election and out to build an electrified fence to keep all the illegal immigrants out. He also pals around with Don Johnson's psycho killer border patrolman, who has no qualms about shooting a pregnant teenager in the stomach.
The social commentary is all very heavy handed, which is exactly why it works. There's nothing better than a blow to current hot button topics as a bluntly said phrase. It's one aspect of self-aware moments that managed to come off with flying colors. It's a shame Steven Seagal's Mexican accent isn't as convincing.
At the end of the day, you're not going to Machete to get a good dose of culture, you're heading to the theater to see Machete bust shit up, and maybe to catch a glimpse of Lindsay Lohan sans bra. If you're looking for something with more character development, intelligent ideas and directorial restraint, check out The American instead. But don't blame me if Machete shows up at your door pissed because you didn't see his movie.