Undeniably Robert Rodriguez's biggest hit in years, which resonated well in his fan base and helped to spread the word futher to the outside world, that exploitation was indeed back on the block and kicked butts exactly like it had done in the golden years of drive-in and grindhouse cinema (we're saying late 60's and early 70's). While it didn't hit my guts as strongly as a preceding take on the convention – "Planet Terror", it definitely managed to come down with whole lotta fun, recalling all these sleazy stirs of Corman's New World Pictures exploitation products – to name the biggest shop of the time. As the idea of a smashing trailer evolved into a feature movie, the action was developed into a shitstorm of badass skull-ripping, high octane explosions, sex mini-adventures and borderline notoriety. The character of Machete himself draws largely upon the lines of jungle movies black revolutionaries like mythical Jim Haygood from "Savage!" (1973), classic underground vindicators like Billy Jack ("The Born Losers") or you name it.
When Machete (Danny Trejo) gets accidentally framed looking for justice on a self-driven mission to capture a ruthless drug baron Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal), he barely makes his way out of the deepest shit he ever stepped in, losing his wife and daughter. After crossing the US border, he eventually anchors in Texas, where he's gonna desperately look for a regular job, but instead the fate will lead him into the eye of a spiderweb political affair with dark underbelly. Failing to accomplish his mission – which occurs to be another set-up – he becomes a wanted fugitive and again needs to run for his life... but this time he wields his dear machete like a fuckin' angel of death. Not that he particularly likes the violence, but he just doesn't have any choice. Fortunately, he'll get a hand from a stunning immigration agent (Jessica Alba), who's initial aim is to bust a revolutionary Mexican organization known as The Network, but soon she'll stand arm in arm with Machete taking down shadow secretaries and corrupted kings of Texas politics – senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) and his pervert aide – Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), who struck a deal with Torrez himself to put their paws on the sources of political power.
Bold and swingin' like a doberman on speed, "Machete" does it's job! How on earth Rodriguez cast such an overspill of prime Hollywood playeres, I don't really know cause I'm not his casting director, but that was definitely an important factor in translating to box office success. The script is not as wildly entertaining as "Planet Terror" with few unnecessary licks and could have been polished better, but it's in-your-face simplicty with action and no mercy build-up lands a decent brainfuck with only slight excess of form – parody edge spoils it a bit in my opinion. First half rocks, while second one comes a bit short and the ending lacks a well constructed climax – Rodriguez could have made better and we know it! I guess it was partly intentional – let's not forget that the original classics, shot in a week and edited in two, didn't always make a home run either – but as we got used to the smoothest products, that Troublemaker Studios' dream machine could offer, my brain didn't tick to the full fulfilment beat.
But what the hell, man! The character of Machete is raving! Danny Trejo really broke through with it. Being obsessively cast as a Mexican outlaw/gangster in all TV series possible, he's become a genuine embodiment of the role – a cliche he got stuck with in a way, most recently in "Sons Of Anarchy" and "Breaking Bad". I suppose this made an easier choice for Robert Rodriguez... but why did he have to put on a full-blown Latino showdown??? I have to admit, I really suffered storming the Alamo of vigilantes with low-riders and California choppers in clear spirit of "Mad Max". That was way too much for me, but probably good for teenager market, if you get my point. Nevertheless, I enjoyed watching "Machete" for all these neat cues like Robert de Niro (not exactly ma favourite actor) sort of playing back to his old days in Corman's film school ("Bloody Mama") or great Cheech Martin puffing joints on the screen in tribute to his glorious days of Cheech & Chong stoner flicks, or even Steven Seagal showing off his ken-do and ai-ki-do techniques, this time on the other side of the force. We're all waiting for "Machete Kills" and hope it's gonna beat the original!