(pamgram1) from CHAFFEE, MO
Reviewed on 5/6/2011...
As a tribute to both the hyperbolic excesses of 1970s drive-in cinema and the fearsome screen persona of veteran character actor Danny Trejo, producer-writer-codirector Robert Rodriguez's Machete is, in grindhouse parlance, one mean mother. A full-length version of Rodriguez's faux "Mexsploitation" trailer in Grindhouse, Machete sketches, in the boldest strokes possible, the adventures of its titular hero (Trejo), a former federal agent turned day laborer after losing his wife and child to a katana-wielding drug lord (Steven Seagal, of all people). Recruited by shady businessman Jeff Fahey (Lost) to assassinate a rabble-rousing senator (Robert De Niro) with a particular hate vibe for immigrants, Machete soon finds himself the target of government agents, border vigilantes (led by Don Johnson!), and about half the state of Texas. Unfortunately, none seem to realize the film's central thesis: Machete's business is killing, and business is booming. Viewers expecting subtlety or even story coherence in Machete should probably check out another movie; the script by Rodriguez and cousin Alvaro leaves no genre cliché or absurd scenario untouched, resulting in less of a plot than a collection of over-the-top set pieces, dialogue, and casting stunts (Johnson, Lindsay Lohan as Fahey's libertine daughter, and Rodriguez regulars Cheech Marin, Daryl Sabara, Tom Savini, Michael Parks, and an uncredited Rose McGowan). Most of the cast seems in on the joke, most notably a gleefully over-the-top De Niro and Michelle Rodriguez as a taco truck operator/revolutionary leader who borrows her look from the infamous Thriller: A Cruel Picture (Jessica Alba is also on board as a sympathetic fed who becomes Machete's love interest). Though it's occasionally overlong and unnecessarily convoluted, the film's value rests on how well it allows star Danny Trejo to exude his steely, implacable Danny Trejo-ness; on those merits alone, Machete is a blockbuster. --Paul Gaita