Machete is mean as hell!

Robert Rodriguez expands his “Grindhouse” trailer into a full-length bloodbath.

Machete (Danny Trejo) looking mean.

20th Century Fox

Machete (Danny Trejo) looking mean.

Tony Libera

Machete”

 

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis

 

Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal

 

Rated: R

 

Showing at: Area theaters

 

Audience’s first introduction to the character of Machete came in the pseudo-trailer for the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double-feature “Grindhouse.” It was a snippet of both macho cool and outright goofiness — an embodiment of all the cheesy B-movie glee that fans of the two directors have come to embrace over their careers. There was so much demand for a feature-length “Machete” that Rodriguez decided to try the experiment, expanding a two-minute trailer into a roughly two-hour-long movie. The resulting film gets spread thin as it tackles imitation and clutches at its roots, but “Machete” is just ridiculous enough to keep viewers interested, provided they, like Rodriguez, take it lightly.

“Machete” opens with the titular character (Danny Trejo), federale extraordinaire, barreling down the streets of Mexico toward a kidnap victim, ignoring the pleas of his partner and the commands from his superior officer to stand down. Machete doesn’t care about orders or protocol; Machete only cares about referring to himself in the third-person, finding the bad guys and dishing out his special brand of hyper-violent justice. The kidnapping reveals a more sinister plot, one that leaves the hero trapped in a burning building, his wife dead before him and a bullet hole through his belly.

Cut to a few years later and Machete is somehow still alive, working for less than peanuts as a day-laborer in the sticky, racist Texan heat. A passing businessman (Jeff Fahey) spots him and makes a lucrative job offer: Assassinate a xenophobic politician (Robert De Niro) and walk away with a cool 150K. Machete gets double-crossed and now must take action against the legion of hit men sent to kill him.

Rodriguez and company revel in B-movie cheese throughout “Machete,” ladling in enough over-the-top action sequences and campy dealings to keep the movie afloat.

Rodriguez sets multiple shotguns above the proverbial fireplace and then intermittently uses them in novel ways, garnering both laughs and badass cred, all the while staying true to the B-movie shtick with awkward, low-angle shots, an absurd death count and swanky porno music that repeatedly cues impending debauchery. At times, “Machete” lags, stumbling through immigration moralizing and one too many B-movie clichés, but every now and again Rodriguez gives us some true wit and an unexpected guffaw.

Rodriguez is undoubtedly the architect here, dipping his finger in everything from directing, writing, editing and songwriting, but it’s the acting that takes over in “Machete.” The cast is stacked with familiar faces. Cheech Marin, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson and the one and only Robert De Niro each have major roles in the film and all deliver. But the 66-year-old Danny Trejo bests them all as the gravel-throated bulldog, Machete.

This film is not for those averse to copious amounts of blood and death, or for the Homer Simpsons among us who don’t appreciate the absurdity of camp. It won’t win any Oscars and it won’t advance the medium of film, but “Machete” will entertain those who don’t take it too seriously, those who appreciate some mindless violence, plenty of unsubtle jokes and just a dash of gratuitous nudity. That seems to be just what Rodriguez wants.

 

2/4 Stars