While political movies projecting a serious tone around themes like war tend to drive audiences away from US theaters faster than rumors of a bedbug invasion, when heavy subject matter is laced with light laughs it’s an entirely different story. So even though Machete is just about incendiary enough to incite an all out border war around the current hot topic of immigration, spicing up the proceedings with devilish humor keeps the feverish temperature moderated more at playful than provocative levels.
Troublemaker Studio’s bay boy director Robert Rodriguez, who last shook up movie screens with Grindhouse and Sin City, returns with a vengeance with the bullet riddled, stylishly defiant slice ’em up action satire, Machete. Get even bilingual guerrilla warfare meets guerrilla filmmaking, as wickedly dark screen insanity fuels US north of the border revolutionary beatdown.
Turning all known manifestations of the classic western on their heads when not simply decapitating them in droves, Machete detonates the battle around immigration like no Tea Party rally ever could. Machete, which refers to both Danny Trejo’s screen alias and the old school heat he’s brandishing for the duration, manically showcases a mad as hell Mexican ex-lawman with multiple identities, as he avenges assorted betrayals and is not into sorting them out later.
Following the ill-fated but nonstop ridiculously hilarious rescue of a nude, flirtatious kidnapped damsel in distress via home invasion by auto right through the front door, Machete heads for the border minus papers to right more than a couple of convoluted wrongs. But not before stopping to apologize to a fresh corpse, and crushing a cellphone when recognizing an incoming call he has an extreme aversion to taking.
Sauntering under the INS radar as an undocumented day laborer in a Texas border town, the weathered, sulking Machete finds himself improbably juggling three radically sensuous women. Including sassy Luz (Michelle Rodriquez), a mobile taco stand operator who may or may not be the mythic avenger of the oppressed masses known as She, while priding herself on serving up ethnic grub to the famished ‘workers of the world’; Sartana (Jessica Alba), a patent leather stiletto wielding customs agent stalking Machete until she sees the insurrectionary light; and Lindsay Lohan as a spoiled rich kid meth head – wouldn’t you know it – turned machine gun toting nun on the run when not bare breasted while webcamming in her backyard pool for a sex frolic simultaneously with Machete and her mom.
With a nonstop, multiple personality series of lunatic political showdowns involving devious anti-immigration assassin celebs (Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey) on both sides of the border – and in one case a great escape featuring hospital homicidal surgical tools along with sixty feet of commandeered human intestine coming in handy for climbing down a hi rise building – this movie is clearly a mind blower in the extreme.
Likewise turning up for off-the-charts, literally slice of life subversive comedic mischief is Cheech Marin, as an armed to the teeth parish priest. That is, when not doing double duty tending surveillance cameras stationed next to all the church collection plates. At the same time, hidden meanings abound in the movie subliminally, if you’re looking for them. Including ‘She’ as a tough chick alias counterpart to Che.
In a word, Machete is not likely to hit border multiplexes frequented by Minutemen, anytime soon.
20th Century Fox
4 [out of 4] stars