Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cuts Like a Machete

Grindhouse was the ode to 70's era exploitation movies Robert Rodriguez co-directed with Quentin Tarantino. Machete is the grindhouse movie Rodriquez promised but failed to deliver in his half of the twin-bill extravaganza. Machete which appeared in Grindhouse as a cheeky one-off trailer for a movie never made, is everything Rodriques' bloody but aimless Planet Terror is not. It is forward-paced kinetic thriller and classic 70's grindhouse actioner with plenty of bad(ass) dialogue and gratuitous nudity glommed on like so much icing on a cake.

Hatchet-faced Danny Trejo was born for this role as "one mad Mexican" who has a literal axe to grind with evil political operative Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) who double-crosses him while in the employ of evil Senator John McLaughlin (a thinly veiled John McCain), played with giddy, greasy slipperiness by Robert DeNiro, and under the thumb of the even more evil Steven Segal, who essays the paunchy but serenely venal power broker, Torrez.

Add to this savory stew a estrogen heavy dose of Michele Rodriguez as a tough mama amalgram of Cesar Chavez and Che Guevara and Jessica Alba as a sweet-faced Federal Agent who plays "beauty" to Trejo's machete wielding "beast."

The gratuitous nudity is delivered in a small but bracing dose by actress Mayra Leal as a naked chica who gives new meaning to "reaching out to touch someone" in the opening sequence. It is delivered in large, loopy, (hopefully) drug-induced gallops by former A-list actress Lindsay Lohan, who plays Jeff Fahey's wild-child daughter, and Alicia Rachel Marek, who plays Lohan's alcoholic mother. Lohan looks great naked but you can't help but wonder "WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?" when she agreed to take this role.

In one great set-piece, a character explains how the human body has twenty feet of small intestines right before Machete puts the knowledge to bloody and effective use. You'll never think of seven yards of guts in the same way again.

Machete the movie holds together better than most Robert Rodriquez movies, which often come off as half-baked despite great cinematic ingredients. One wonders whether to ascribe this Rodriguez or his credited co-director, Ethan Maniquis or, perhaps, even his co-writer, Alvaro Rodriguez. In any event, rarely has ten million dollars been better employed on the big screen.