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Machete Continues A Giddy Screw-It Mentality For 2010

Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Written by Rodriguez and Alvaro Rodriguez
Fox, 2010

Beginning as a jokey homage to old exploitation flicks and their trailers, Machete’s fake preview in 2007’s Grindhouse is an excellent warm-up to the mayhem that follows.  So while I felt some excitement about Robert Rodriguez’s attempt to actually film a Machete movie, I also felt it might be the biggest stomping on a joke ever conceived.  Now when you watch Grindhouse, the trailer is just a trailer, even though some of its jokiness still remains, especially with a sincere trailer voice remarking, “They just fucked with the wrong Mexican!”

It certainly had the best chance of being filmed out of all the fake trailers in the movie.  Grindhouse’s middle section contains three fake trailers that would have zero chance to make it on any level as a full movie, although Eli Roth is still trying to get Thanskgiving to happen.

We now have four movies this year that have been all about fun and have succeeded on several levels.  It began with Kick-Ass in April, then in August we got Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Piranha 3D.  The attitude is not to take anything very seriously and just go with the flow.  Many of the times when you aim for schlock, it doesn’t work.  It’s too self-aware.  I think all four of these examples did a good job of actually coming up with a “serious” story where a parody could be launched.  In other words, there’s the semblance of grounding here, something that is much needed if you’re going to make a movie that doesn’t take itself completely serious.

In Machete, the title character (Danny Trejo, a character just through his face) is a former federale looking to survive in Texas.  A politician’s aide named Booth (Jeff Fahey), working for a racist state senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) wants Machete to try to assassinate the senator just before election.  It goes bad, and Machete finds himself on the run.  He is helped by “The Network,” a group of people out to help those important people in need, led in part by taco stand owner Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a former freedom fighter.  He is being tracked down by up-and-coming cop Sartana (Jessica Alba, who continues to take things almost too seriously in her acting), who learns of his innocence and also wants to help him.

Other players: Drug czar Torrez (Steven Seagal, who clearly gives his best performance ever) is the money man who really pulls the strings, responsible for Machete’s retirement as a federale.  Lindsay Lohan is in this, the tragic Hollywood story, now resorting to playing a very small part as Booth’s daughter and quite unafraid of being nude for half her screen time, ends up playing a decent grindhousey role by the film’s end.  Cheech Marin plays Machete’s priest “hermano,” not exactly a man of God, with lots of scams and guns at his disposal.  And let’s not forget Don Johnson, cutely given the “introducing” credit here reserved for child actors and new-found talent, playing a lethal border patrol gunman.

The movie is another super-violent escapade, not nearly as violent as last month’s Piranha, but pretty close.  It’s very cartoonish.  There are jokes in here that excel on a level not seen since the ZAZ team that brought us Airplane! and The Naked Gun were pulling off perfect parodies.  The undercurrent of racism pays off for several jokes, sometimes asking you to pay your utmost attention to catch, which makes it all the funnier.  But mostly, the slapstick humor is in the ridiculousness of the film itself, much like Grindhouse’s Planet Terror sought out to reproduce.

This is a fun movie, and you have any interest at all, you should give it a look.  It might be the wildly inconsistent Rodriguez’s funnest movie since From Dusk Till Dawn.

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