In his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino on “Grindhouse” (2007), Robert Rodriguez introduced a mock trailer for a fake movie called “Machete,” starring craggy-faced, veteran character actor Danny Trejo (“Desperado,” “Con Air”) as an intimidating Mexican day laborer. Now, in homage to violent, low-budget, ‘70s exploitation pictures, that ‘coming attraction’ has become a testosterone-fueled reality.
Although you can’t take it seriously, the minimalist plot revolves around Machete (Trejo), a badass ex-Mexican Federale who is seeking revenge against the vicious Mexican drug lord who killed his wife and daughter. Within the opening minutes, he’s lopped the heads and arms off a dozen gangsters guarding the kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal). Left for dead, Machete recuperates and flees over-the-border to Austin, where he’s coerced under threat of deportation to accept $150,000 from double-crossing Booth (Jeff Fahey) to kill conservative, intolerant Texas Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), who denounces illegal immigrants as “parasites” and enjoys driving with sadistic, rifle-wielding Von (Don Johnson), shooting unarmed Mexican they find sneaking into the country. But it’s a set-up and when he’s identified as the would-be assassin, Machete’s only allies are his brother (Cheech Marin), a less-than-pious priest, and Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), the proprietor of a taco truck and leader of ‘the Network,’ as the underground resistance is called. Then there’s scantily clad Sartana (Jessica Alba), a luscious Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent, and slutty April (Lindsay Lohan), Booth’s spoiled, drugged-up daughter. Mix ‘em all together and you get murder and mayhem.
Granted, writer/director Robert Rodriguez (“Sin City”/”Spy Kids”) and his co-director/longtime editor Ethan Maniquis are only junior-grade Quentin Tarantinos, but they assemble enough ludicrous, offensive, over-the-top, politically incorrect genre conventions – like bigoted hombres, naughty nurses and naked bodacious babes – to score as a well-done, late-summer diversion. And they’re already planning two sequels.
So for an intentionally junky, grade-B movie, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Machete” is a campy, slice-and-dice 7. And I don’t have to be a betting woman to suggest that men will like this R-rated guilty pleasure much more than women.