Horror review: Machete

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ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, SEPT. 3, 2010

The best thing about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s ambitious Grindhouse project was the fake horror-exploitation trailers that ran during that 2007 double feature. Celebrated directors Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, and Edgar Wright all contributed hilariously twisted coming attractions, but the trailer helmed by Rodriguez—with craggy-faced character actor Danny Trejo as a blade-packing Mexican “illegal” with mucho scores to settle—left the strongest impression.

I, for one, am extremely grateful that those few minutes transformed into a full-length film, because Machete is the coolest revenge-driven, gore-splattered, star-studded Mexploitation flick ever!

The 66-year-old Trejo stars as the titular antihero, a former Mexican federale who lost everything but his life to a samurai sword–swinging drug lord (the ever-paunchy Steven Seagal). He winds up as a day labourer in Texas who’s hired to assassinate the corrupt conservative senator (the ever-hammy Robert De Niro) bent on keeping him and similar border-hopping “terrorists” from destroying the fabric of American society (and cutting into his drug-smuggling profits).

But when a double-cross arranged by the senator’s ruthless aide (the ever-blue-eyed Jeff Fahey) goes awry, it becomes abundantly clear that they’ve “fucked with the wrong Mexican”!

Rodriguez and codirector Ethan Maniquis paint the screen with frantic bursts of blood, expressing their outrage at hard-line U.S. immigration policy to the rhythm of Machete’s nonstop head- and limb-loppings. Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez bring the hottie factor as a U.S. customs officer and a taco stand–running resistance fighter, respectively, and Don Johnson kills as a psychotic border vigilante.

Everyone handling secondary roles—from Cheech Marin (as a shotgun-toting priest) to makeup-FX great Tom Savini (as a hotshot hit man) to Lindsay Lohan (as a naked, wasted Lindsay Lohan)—delivers appropriately trashy performances.

The mariachi-tinged spaghetti-western rock of guitarist Robert Rodriguez’s band, Chingon, provides the ideal ’70s drive-in vibe for this over-the-top exercise in ultraviolent social commentary.

The Tex-Mex maestro of mayhem has done it again.

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