With “Machete,” a trashy, cynical, self-conscious exercise in blood, guts and mayhem, Robert Rodriguez goes back to his origins as a filmmaker, circa 1993-1995, when he made the low-budget “El Mariachi,” and then the slightly more expensive studio remake of that picture, “Desperado,” starring Antonio Banderas.
Bursting upon the scene out of nowhere (actually Austin, Texas), Rodriguez immediately established himself as a director who works quickly, know how to manipulate the camera, and savvy with fast-moving movies that are vastly entertaining and extremely violent, but have little thematic or other relevancy.
Sadly, unlike his cohort and friend, Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez has not developed as a director and two decades after his debut, he continues to make the same kinds of movies—albeit with bigger budgets, more special effects, and name cast.
The cast of “Machete” includes (of all people) Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, and best of all, Daniel Trejo, a rough-tough macho actor in the mold of Charles Bronosn, who literally carries the movie on his robust shoulders.
Essentially a cheap exploitation fare (truly a B-programmer), “Machete” pretends to say something about the illegal immigration problem and the status of the law. However, the movie is not really an issue-oriented tale but a revenge saga, with all the blood and gore and mayhem that comes with this turf. In other words, “Machete” is a movie made for the fans, best enjoyed as a schlock midnight flick.
While the first reel is more or less grounded in some reality, progressively the movie becomes cartoonish, to the point where each character transforms from a recognizable human being to a mythic figure, and in the case of the lead, no less than an icon.
The premise is rather simple: Machete, a day laborer from the streets, becomes the perfect fall guy for a political assassination plot that goes uproariously and hilariously awry.
The point of the narrative is to turn the figure into a legendary Machete, an ex-Federale with a deadly attitude and a killer’s skills to match. In the first chapter, presumed to be dead after clashing with notorious Mexican drug kingpin Torrez, Machete escapes to Texas. He deludes himself that all he wants is to “simply disappear,” forget his tragic past, and move onto a more “normal” existence.
He must be kidding. Or as Machete puts it simply: “They just f****d with the wrong Mexican.”
Indeed, what Machete finds is a web of corruption and deceit that turns Machete into a wanted man, when a bullet hits the senator (De Niro) during a rally.
Machete sets out to clear his name and expose a deep conspiracy in a road full of obstacles. Standing in his way are Booth, a ruthless businessman with an endless payroll of killers; Von, a twisted border vigilante leading a small army; and Sartana, a beautiful immigrations officer torn between enforcing the law and doing what is right.
Helping Machete, against all odds, are Luz, a sexy taco-truck femme Michelle Rodriguez) with a rebellious spirit and revolutionary heart, and Padre, a priest who’s good with blessings, but better with guns.
Carving a path of bullets, blood, and broken hearts, Machete’s quest ultimately leads him back to Torrez for an epic battle of revenge and redemption.