If you've seen the original Grindhouse trailer, you've pretty much seen Machete. Machete (Trejo) is an ex-Federale stuck just over the US side of the border, three years after his attempt to bring down drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal) was foiled by his corrupt superiors. Hired to assassinate anti-immigration Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) in a set-up, he goes on the run and plots his bloody revenge. Throw in amoral money man Booth (Jeff Fahey), Machete's killer-turned-priest brother (Cheech Marin), viciously unpleasant vigilante Von (Don Johnson) and a whole lotta blood, and you're in for a hell of a time... and that's without even mentioning the ladies. Taco van girl/underground network leader Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), on-the-rise immigration cop Sartana (Jessica Alba) and Booth's druggy daughter April (Lindsay Lohan) all get in on the act to up the blood 'n' boobs factor a few more notches still.
For what's effectively still a three minute idea, Machete is a little baggy, but despite the similar runtime and size of the ensemble cast it feels less sprawling than something like Once Upon A Time In Mexico. Fast-paced, brutal, and filled with plenty of violent sight gags and one-liners, the minutes really do fly by. Where the gore in this summer's Piranha 3D tipped over into unpleasantness with its lingering close-ups, the fast cuts - in every sense - of Machete always stay on the right side of shlock, no matter how extreme it gets. Similarly, even a scene with a topless Lohan and her mum (Alicia Rachel Marek) sandwiching Machete in a swimming pool hits the perfect and utterly stupid/sexy note that Kelly Brook and Riley Steele missed with their in-your-face boobathon.
You can argue about the cinematic worth of fetishising 1970s B-movies over 30 years on. Those days have passed for many (good) reasons and fans wanting a nostalgia hit are better off revisiting them through actually-grainy videotapes, rather than the Dolly Parton approach ("It takes a lot of money to look this cheap"). Despite that, it's hard not to warm to Machete and get caught up in his monosyllabic quest for vengeance. There's even a right-on, sort-of-political slant to all the slicing and dicing, though it's probably best not to delve too deep into it. At the end there's the humorous promise of sequels, but if Machete is a neat, bloody full-stop on the mainstream Mexploitation genre Rodriguez has done so much to resurrect, it's a fine one.
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