Slice of the action…
What can you say about Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez’s cheerfully blood-soaked Mexploitation B-movie tribute? It’s hard to know where to stop, and you get the impression the film-makers were faced with a similar dilemma.
The bare facts: it’s based on a (superb) parody trailer that ran with the director’s equally over-the-top Planet Terror, and mines the same seam of bloody, neo-trash cinema. It stars grizzled, long-serving Rodriguez character actor Danny Trejo as a blade-wielding Mexican approximation of Shaft. The first five minutes of screen time are a gleeful riot of violence, blood, nudity and a fake-tanned, scenery-chewing Steven Seagal as the evil boss… well, by now, you should have got the idea.
It’s hugely enjoyable, of course, and confidently treads the line between arch and kitsch. The jokes are funny, the gore explosive and frequent, the nudity Olympically unnecessary, and Trejo is highly watchable as the granite-faced hero, doling out one-liners and savage beatings with equal, grimacing aplomb.
For a film that essentially started out as a joke, it all hangs together adequately. The plot, a loose weave of drug kingpins, corrupt politicians and illegal immigration, is sturdy enough, but it’s really just a backdrop for explosions, naked women and Trejo churning through his many foes like a human Rotovator.
There are a few downsides. At somewhere over 100 minutes the runtime is bit hefty, and there are a couple of awkward lurches in pace. DeNiro is lukewarm, and fumbles his way through like a man with better things on his mind. However, these are minor grumbles. Machete ultimately succeeds because it doesn’t try too hard to be charming. The drive-in parody element isn’t overcooked; the performances are sometimes knowingly tongue-in-cheek, but they’re just about straight enough to keep things on the right side of outright silliness. Most importantly, you get the feeling that everyone on the set had a blast, and this sense of fun sweeps you along with them. Enjoyable B-movie mayhem for a beery Friday night.
Stars Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan
Directors Ethan Maniquis & Robert Rodriguez
Distributor Columbia Pictures
Running Time 1hr 44mins
Opens November 26