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With a face as tough as tree bark, Danny Trejo stars as a revenge-seeking ex-Federale in Machete. (Joaquin Avellan/AP/Joaquin Avellan/AP)
With a face as tough as tree bark, Danny Trejo stars as a revenge-seeking ex-Federale in Machete. (Joaquin Avellan/AP/Joaquin Avellan/AP)

Movie Review

Machete: Booze, babes, blood, guts - and not much attention to detail Add to ...

  • Country USA
  • Language English

Machete

  • Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
  • Written by Robert Rodriguez and Alvaro Rodriguez
  • Starring Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, Cheech Marin and Don Johnson
  • Classification: 18A

Machete is a drinking man's The Expendables, a guest-star-studded B-movie action flick with all the party perks an 18A rating allows.

Un tequila más, por favor. We're talking pool orgies. Law-enforcement babe Jessica Alba in and out of uniform. Rows and rows of shot glasses. And for those who fancy a little bit of the old ultra-violence, a sequence in which the title character fashions an out-the-window escape rope from an unwilling accomplice's intestines.

There are also a few good jokes. Some are explicit - Robert De Niro plays a Stetson-wearing, corn-pone southern senator. Some you have to chew on a while - Lindsay Lohan, for instance, dressed up as a nun. Get it? Lohan has a new habit!

For the uninitiated, Machete began as a fake trailer in writer-director Robert Rodriguez's half of the double bill Planet Terror- Death Proof (2007). In the film come on, an impoverished Mexican labourer played by Danny Trejo, an actor with the complexion of a sequoia, wanders into the crosshairs of an American right-wing conspiracy. Trejo's character, Machete, is hired to knock off a U.S. senator who wants to shut down the Mexican border. Only it turns out Machete catches the first bullet.

"Set up, double-crossed and left for dead," the trailer announces, then informs us Machete is a blade-wielding renegade Federale - the baddest hombre alive. "If you're going to hire Machete to kill the bad guy," the gravelly voiceover continues, "you better be damn sure the bad guy isn't you."

Machete the film leans on its trailer antecedent for style and execution as well as plot. Rodriguez's movie works best as frantic, disconnected action scenes punctuated by short, smart advertising shout lines.

Alba, who plays Sartana, an honest, hard-working immigration officer, discovers the plot to discredit peaceful Mexicans hoping to make it to the promised land. "We didn't cross the border," she shouts, rallying an army of angry deportees. "The border crossed us."

Elsewhere, after bedding a series of beautiful women and executing lots of bad guys, our grunting sequoia turns down an invitation to join the 21st-century telecommunications revolution, deadpanning, "Machete don't text."

Neither does the film bother with character development or advancing a coherent plot. One of the 2007 trailer's funnier bits had Machete gaining revenge on his double-crosser (Jeff Fahey) by going after the politician's family, cavorting nude with his wife and daughter in their backyard pool. The scene makes it into the film, except we still don't get any kind of seduction scene, explaining why mother and daughter would want to form such a unique welcoming committee. And Rodriguez uses the same clip as was in the original trailer. So we have an uncredited blonde suddenly replacing Lohan in the pool.

Doesn't matter: Machete is never more than an amiable series of riffs on 1970s exploitation movies, a genre that never valued narrative integrity. The riffs are pleasurable. Seeing Steven Seagal, who plays a drug czar, show up wearing a Bela Lugosi werewolf skullcap is almost worth the price of admission.

Rodriguez's finely honed sense of the ridiculous is everywhere. If next spring's Academy Awards present a prize for slicing and dicing villains (The Ronco Award?), Machete would win, severed hands down. Machete carves up foes with endless around-the-house items - corkscrews, weed whackers, even a meat thermometer.

For those who like their B-movies a little less campy (and more menacing), remember sturdy Robert Mitchum noirs of the forties ( Out of the Past) or brisk Kurt Russell action movies from the nineties ( Breakdown). Sorry, mis amigos, wrong decades. The modern B-movie would seem to be devoted to self-conscious fun. More laughs, but fewer real chills.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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