Robert Rodriguez is one of the most inspiring directors of our generation – from his hardscrabble start with El Mariachi, which he made for $7000 and launched him into theaters, to his work on blockbusters like Sin City and Spy Kids, he manages to knock out entertainment on his own terms at a breakneck speed, often directing, producing, editing and writing his movies. Machete may be one of his best yet.
A quick background – the idea for Machete came while Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino were assembling fake trailers for the “intermission” in between the two films that made up 2007’s Grindhouse. Starring Danny Trejo, the craggy-faced character actor most recently seen in the Rodriguez-produced Predators, the story concerns Machete, an ex-Federale who sees his wife and kid killed (by Steven Seagal!) and swears grisly vengeance. The trailer was so sweet Rodriguez spun it out into a full-length film, and it’s one of the best actioners of the summer – no small feat!
Fast forward a few years and Machete is working as a day laborer. Smartly referencing the grotesque anti-immigration sentiment sweeping the American Southwest, Robert De Niro plays a Senator gunning for re-election. When Machete is hired to assassinate him, he quickly gets caught up in a web of double-crosses and betrayal that can only be severed with a really big knife.
On the run, Machete hooks up with Jessica Alba as the border patrol agent who is sent to hunt him down, as well as a ragtag crew of allies who help him in his quest. Alba is surprisingly great in this more mature role, but the same can’t be said for Lindsay Lohan, who spends most of the movie naked and on drugs. So just another Thursday night for her.
Let’s be very frank: Machete is wild, gory, sexually explicit and insane. But to me, those are all essential ingredients for an action classic. The movie charges forward like a rhinoceros hopped up on Red Bulls, and when it’s all over you’ll find yourself catching your breath and hungry for more. Highly recommended.