Left for dead after clashing with notorious Mexican drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Segal), the ex-Federale known as Machete (Danny Trejo) has escaped to Texas, looking to disappear and forget his tragic past. But what he finds is a web of corruption and deceit in which a controversial Senator is shot and Machete is a wanted man. Machete sets out to clear his name and expose the conspiracy which preys on the border tensions between Texas and Mexico, with drug trafficking profits at stake. But standing in his way are Booth (Jeff Fahey), a ruthless businessman with a payroll of killers; Von (Don Johnson), a twisted border vigilante leading a small army; and Sartana (Jessica Alba), a beautiful immigration control officer torn between enforcing the law and doing what is right. Helping Machete even the odds are Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a sexy taco-truck lady with a rebellious spirit and revolutionary heart, and Padre (Cheech Marin), a priest who's good with blessings, but better with guns.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Although you'd be hard pressed to call this a chick flick, the fightin' fashions on display dent the crown of Sex and the City as a girl's retreat. Ah, but these girls - Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez with stilletto heels this high, leather body suits this tight and this revealing and even Lindsay Lohan cavorting naked in the pool - do provide eye candy for the guys in the audience, whose attention may wonder here and there as the camera pans up their long legs in between the gun fights and fisticuffs.
Robert Rodriguez, with his oft-declared love of the 70s exploitation genre, devotes his considerable energies to a macho picture with a hero who is assailed by every available hurdle and impending death many times, to give audiences a high octane, stunt-driven action thriller which takes no prisoners.
Danny Trejo's instantly recognisable, pock-marked face and his guttural speaking voice lend themselves admirably to the Rodriguez mission as Machete: a man once a feared lawman whose family is destroyed in front of him and who is left for dead. But Machete (whose trademark weapon is his name) rises and returns to exact the price of evil from the big, bad drug boss responsible first hand for these outrages: Torrez, played with slicked hair venom by Steven Segal, whose trademark is semi-naked women draped over his shoulder. There are several such genre defining elements, not least the music and some iconic imagery.
But Rodriguez is no simplistic filmmaker; he knows that for this film to cut through, it needs some ballast - not just personal revenge by a pineapple faced Mexican. The story builds around a political hot button issue: illegal migrants pouring across the border into Texas, and the potential for ugly xenophobia - flames of which are fuelled by opportunist Senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro). Behind him is the manipulative Booth (Jeff Fahey), who tries to hire Machete for an assassination.
By enlarging the scale of the story with this major socio-political issue, Rodriguez puts the stuffing into the film, without ever compromising its genre intentions. There is blood and guts - the latter providing an inventive new escape you will have to see for yourself - and much machete work as the forces of good and evil find ever larger stakes to fight over.
Danny Trejo makes for a first class action hero who speaks very little, does a lot (of killing) and even has time to turn on the charm when required. Wordlessly, of course. Big fun film - go see. Be exploited.
Published first in the Sun-Herald
Review by Louise Keller:
It's splattered with blood and body parts, but you can't help being swept along by Robert Rodriguez' outrageously violent and cheeky action thriller in which Danny Trejo, with character etched into every crevice of his well-worn, craggy face is king. Machete is his name and machete is his weapon of choice. And note: Machete 'don't text' and Machete reserves the right to improvise. Rodriguez throws just about everything into this gorefest - violence, sex, politics, religion - all seasoned with bravado, ballast and bellylaughs. It's not for everyone, of course, but if you like your exploitation full on, this is blatant, bad taste escapism that will get your outrage pumping.
In a shock of a violent opening sequence in which the machete is yielded, bodies are decapitated and body parts fly, Rodriguez leaves you with no doubt he means business. No reply is necessary when Trejo's Machete is asked 'have you ever killed anyone before?' The withering look says it all. There's a wild plot involving dirty politics, illegal immigrants, corruption and drug trafficking, into which extreme and juicy characters are squeezed. Guns, knives, gardening tools, mops, chainsaws, surgical equipment, hammers, nails, swords are the weapons of choice and there's a spiky stiletto (red of course) too, which finds it mark. Houses explode, bodies fall out of the sky, cars buck like broncos in the ring.
Rodriguez has assembled a helluva cast, each of which makes an impact. Robert De Niro throws himself enthusiastically into his role as the corrupt Senator, Don Johnson is callous vigilante Von Jackson (nice choice of name) and Jeff Fahey shines as the evil, corrupt Booth who confesses his sins and has daughter problems (Lindsay Lohan, as daughter April, sheds her clothes and dons a nun's habit). Ironic that Booth's downfall is connected to his religious beliefs. Speaking of religion, Cheech Marin is great as Padre Cortez, whose Church of Hope is the location for a major shootout, over calming strains of Ave Maria. Shapely damsels Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez are not only decorative (dressed to the hilt in skimpy, figure hugging gear and thigh-high boots), but play gutsy women with idealistic beliefs ('There's the law and there's what's right'). Steven Segal has the gravitas of the genre as Torrez, with whom Machete has the final showdown.
Like bodyparts, the plot with its themes of revenge, honour and power might be a bit everywhere, but there is much to enjoy with this wild, theatrical joyride from Rodriguez, whose enthusiasm is infectious.
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CAST: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert DeNiro, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey, Steven Segal, Lindsay Lohan
PRODUCER: Robert Rodriguez, Elizabeth Avellan, Aaron Kaufman, Rick Schwartz
DIRECTOR: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis
SCRIPT: Robert Rodriguez, Alvaro Rodriguez
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jimmy Lindsey
EDITOR: Robert Rodriguez, Rebecca Rodriguez
MUSIC: John Debney, Carl Thiel
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christopher Stull
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 11, 2010