Knives. Stabbing weapons.

I think Black Dynamite is a better “modern exploitation” movie than Machete. At the very least, it’s much much funnier. That said, Machete is almost constantly violent and often in delightful and hilariously unlikely ways. I mean, the guy literally uses a dude’s intestine to jump out  a window and swing to a lower one. This happens about 3 minutes after two nurse characters are chatting nonchalantly about how long intestines are. You can’t make this shit up. Or, if you’re Robert Rodriguez I guess you can.

It’s no secret that this is based off of one of the Grindhouse trailers. Rodriguez had threatened to make it into a movie every year thereafter and now it is finally a reality. Then of course there’s the Rutger Hauer vehicle they made out of Hobo With a Shotgun (click here to slashfilm to see a comparison between the original trailer and the trailer for the upcoming “meta-film”). So I guess there’s a whole new sub-genre or something. Eli Roth once talked about making a movie out of Thanksgiving which was one of the more entertaining trailers. I think this is a weird mutant cousin of the remake frenzy Hollywood is currently suffering from, but I like its gills and strange webbed feet enough to see it live to find its place in our miserable world. I mean, Machete is super entertaining and lets Danny Trejo not only lead a pretty great group of actors and personalities, but it also lets him be a rampaging badass and (gasp) ladykiller. Bow-chicka-bow-wow literally arises from the ether whenever a woman even looks at him twice. He not only nails Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan (say whatever you want, she’s still kinda hawt), he also rides off into the sunset with Jessica Alba.

Yes. Her. Look at her.

It’s true that Lindsay Lohan looks older and more worn (read: forehead wrinkles!) than the actress who plays her mother (who was born in 1975), but Michelle Rodriguez has never looked hotter. While Lindsay plays a boring bit part that culminates in a bizarre scene of nunnery and gun violence, Rodriguez brings some serious game to her role which doesn’t really join in on the camp of the rest of the movie until the very end. She and Jessica Alba are playing two sides of the same coin and both are more serious characters whose ideological and moral beliefs present an intellectual conflict that feels sort of odd in a film like this.

The debate is whether or not “it’s the law” is justification for tossing illegals out of the USA or taking more extreme tactics to “protect” the border. It’s a silly movie that features a US senator (Robert De Niro in a hammy, hilarious role) who calls Mexicans terrorists and rides around the border with militia guys shooting them like rabbits. He also wants to build an electric fence which, as a hilarious little video shows us, will deal with the interlopers appropriately. Even though it is such a silly movie, the conflict between law and the well-being of her people is what drives Jessica Alba’s character and ultimately the subtext of the film. It isn’t taken too seriously, but it is kind of a serious question. Not that Machete tries to answer it in any substantial way, it’s just interesting to me that they both exploited the recent events in Arizona (and the larger controversy in general) as well as commented on it. The movie is unashamedly on the Mexican side of the debate so it’s not like a docudrama meant to shed light on all sides of the issue. Need I remind you that Danny Trejo uses an intestine as a jump rope?

Maybe I should also take a moment and mention Steven Seagal as well as the other heavies they pooled for this movie. Steven Seagal is fat. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play a Mexican samurai drug tycoon. They even let him do his signature aikido hip-throw-reversal-thing. And, at the end, he taunts Machete that a 2-foot blade through the guts is nothing and then commits seppuku as a final “fuck you”. I am not kidding. It is glorious.

The other boys, Fahey and De Niro and Johnson are old-timers getting a shot at some fun. Fahey is actually kind of an interesting case because of Lost turning him into a major character, probably because there’s just something about him. Fahey has this cool voice which tosses out the silly, over-the-top dialogue like it ain’t no thing. He also has these thick eyebrows and cobalt-blue eyes. They pierce right into your soul like ninja spears. He should be cast in everything. De Niro gets to be silly and thin and it’s very sad that this movie is probably the best thing he’s done in the last 5+ years. Don Johnson gets to be a villain and there’s a funny “introducing” credit for him. Tom Savini also shows up briefly but his introduction steals all his thunder (funny fucking series of videos showing off all his badass assassin skills). I was also quite distracted by his fake hair.

Then there’s Cheech Marin who is always reliable and of course Trejo himself. Trejo is playing the culmination of every laconic badass he’s ever been in all of the myriad movies he’s been in which required him to be exactly that. Machete is the ur-Mexican Scary Guy, risen from the ghostly metaplane from whence these fuckers come.

Make no mistake, this is an evil man. He is not your friend. In fact, he hates you.

In all seriousness, Machete is a very entertaining movie. It’s silly but it revels in it, daring you to douse yourself in the gasoline of its mirth. I think you’ll enjoy it if you like manly things, and it is certainly a damn sight better than other recent “throwback” movies like The Expendables. I don’t think they should ever make Machete Kills or Machete Kills Again but Rodriguez et all should keep on having this much fun. Guys like Trejo getting to play mythic icons generated from the stuff of their very careers while others self-parody with a knowing wink… I can think of worse things.

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