“It’s not safe for you to be here,” Padre tells Machete. Machete responds, “I’m not looking for ‘safe.'” “No, I mean it’s not safe for me for you to be here!” Padre blesses Machete and says, “I absolve you of all your sins. Now get the fuck out!”
I never got to see the double feature known as Grindhouse back in 2007 (which featured Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof), but I managed to see the trailer for a fake movie called Machete (which had played during Grindhouse at some point). It featured Danny Trejo as a machete-wielding ex-federale who kicks a lot of ass (and kills a whole lot of bad guys). The trailer was fun, action-packed, filled with a lot of crazy stuff, and grew so popular that it was actually turned into a real movie (with the promise that nearly every piece of footage in the fake trailer would be used in the actual film). Almost four years ago, I managed to catch a showing of Machete during its original theatrical run, and I was so glad to have seen it.
2010’s Machete opens with the federale Machete being left for dead by the drug lord Torrez in Mexico. Three years later, Machete re-emerges across the border in Texas as a laborer. One day, he’s hired by a man named Booth to assassinate a corrupt Texas senator. Machete is forced to take the contract, and as he carries out the plan, he spots another sniper, who shoots him and then the senator. Machete survives but is framed for the attempted assassination. Machete is eventually found by Sartana, an immigration officer, who plans on turning him in until she learns what had happened to him. They reluctantly team up together to expose Senator McLaughlin’s corruption. Machete also plans on exacting his revenge on Booth (who actually works for McLaughlin) and Torrez (who has been masterminding the plan all along), and finds an unexpected ally in the revolutionary Shé as he marches into battle against a small army of border vigilantes.
Danny Trejo is excellent as Machete, a role he seemed to have been born to play. He delivers hilarious one-liners (without trying to sound funny) such as “Machete don’t text” while creating a high body count and oddly oozing machismo (he’s almost like a Mexican James Bond; every woman he encounters is attracted to him). The supporting cast shines as well. Jessica Alba is actually pretty good as Immigration Officer Sartana Rivera. Then there’s Michelle Rodriguez (as Luz/Shé), Robert DeNiro (as Senator John McLaughlin), Jeff Fahey (as Michael Booth), Don Johnson (as Von Jackson), Lindsay Lohan (as April Booth), Alicia Marek (as June Booth, April’s mother), Tom Savini (as the hitman Osiris Amanpour), Cheech Marin (as Padre), and Steven Seagal (as Rogelio Torrez, Machete’s long-time nemesis). Daryl Sabara was funny in his small role as Julio, a white man who had been adopted and raised by Mexicans (even Machete comments on the matter). DeNiro was a wonderfully despicable villain, and it was cool to see Seagal on the big screen again (in the U.S. anyway). Also, keep an eye out for the homage to Abel Ferrara’s Ms. 45 involving Lindsay Lohan.
The screenplay by Robert Rodriguez and his cousin Alvaro manages to balance the drama with the outrageous action occurring on screen (one example being Machete using a man’s lower intestine as a rope as he jumps out of a hospital window to evade bad guys). The film never gets too outlandish that the story would suffer (something that its sequel, 2013’s Machete Kills, fell victim to). Some critics tried to figure out what message Robert Rodriguez was trying to share about Mexican labor in the U.S. Of course, those critics failed to understand exactly what kind of movie Machete is (it’s certainly not a message movie). It’s an exploitation B-movie that actually manages to deliver both the entertainment expected of such a film and tell a good story that could be enjoyed by those whop aren’t fans of the genre. It’s got revenge, political intrigue, family drama, and outrageous, over-the-top action. What’s not to love?