Robert De Niro
Grindhouse Mexican Revenge Flick
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7th Feb 11
Portraying “walking shit magnet” Machete, Danny Trejo has the contented, confident air of a guy who, in his late 60’s, gets to spend two hours wracking up an 80’s style body count and cuddling Jessica Alba.
One of the most pleasurable movie-going experiences of the past 300 years - other than that screening of Transformers last summer during which a texting tween got disembowelled by an irate patron - was watching the full, original version of Grindhouse with an appreciative audience during its selected-cinema UK release months after its two separated halves had enjoyed a wide release. And one of the many, many pleasurable elements of the gloriously indulgent Rodriguez / Tarantino extravaganza was the faux-coming attraction for Machete, its tone agreeably set by the line “They just fucked with the wrong Mexican!”. Given that Robert Rodriguez had conceived Machete as a feature years earlier and considering his loyalty to actor Danny Trejo, it was always obvious that this action-exploitation flick stood a much stronger chance of being turned into a legitimate movie than the three other (also riotous) fake trailers.
Unspooling in an intermittently battered and scratched print to offer technical continuity to Grindhouse, the movie Machete takes approximately 58 seconds to live up to expectations. In 2010’s finest opening sequence, the marvellous Mr Trejo lops off multiple heads simultaneously, uses handguns still attached to severed hands and confronts an uber-hot naked chick hiding a mobile phone in her pussy (Hot naked chick : “What’s this long hard thing?” Machete : “It’s my machete”). Subsequently, a frighteningly fat, toupeed Steven Seagal decapitates Machete’s wife in front of him, and you know you’re in the kind of good time unlikely to result from paying £12 a head to see, for example, Tron : Legacy.
Three years later and still seething with vengeance, Machete is assigned by shady Jeff Fahey the task of assassinating Senator Robert DeNiro (barely trying, but at least it temporarily keeps him away from those fucking awful Meet The Parents movies) for $100k. DeNiro is overseeing the lone star state’s brutal new measures for keeping out Mexican immigrants, casually referring to Machete’s country folk as parasites and erecting electric fences to keep them away from the border. Partnered by federal agent Jessica Alba, Machete embarks on a mission that leads him into a tryst with Fahey’s hot daughter (Lindsay Lohan, getting ‘em off for the sake of art) and involves assorted bouts of double-crossing.
Grindhouse fans will appreciate the incorporation here of many of the same shots, moments and lines of dialogue from the original Machete trailer, including the memorable mom-daughter threesome. You also get the wholly welcome return of Planet Terror’s “Crazy Babysitter Twins”, the unfeasibly luscious Electra and Elise Avellan, as a pair of outrageously sexy nurses who tend to one of Machete’s many wounds : a bullet stopped by a bullet that was already in his body.
From El Mariarchi onward, Rodriguez has been top of the league of contemporary filmmakers when it comes to larger-than-life R-rated action set pieces laden with cool, bad-taste humour. This movie delivers a succession of the kind of casually brutal, hyper-bloody confrontations that largely disappeared when Hollywood started making PG-13-rated Die Hard movies and pacifist Arnie Schwarzenegger flicks. There’s an awesome County Hospital sequence in which Machete fashions a weapon from various surgical knives and uses a hapless dude’s intestinal tract as a rope to jump to freedom. If you’re in this for corkscrew-abuse, exploding heads, makeshift crucifixions, stiletto eye gouging, exploding houses and Lindsay Lohan’s tits, disappointment will not darken your towel.
Casting-wise, the movie is loyal to the Grindhouse ensemble, with the ever-underrated Jeff Fahey given another chance to shine (“You’re a walking shit magnet!”) and Tom Savini relishing his screen time as bad ass “Osiris” (“Call 1800-HITMAN”). Cheech Marin, reprising his role from the trailer, steals the show as Machete’s brother, a gun-toting priest with his own CCTV system in church and a propensity for taping Confessions for later use. Trejo, meanwhile, rarely moves a facial muscle but his deadpan, barrel-chested, super-human killing machine is subtly invested with humanity and dryly delivered one-liners (“Machete don’t text”) and catchphrases. Rodriguez’s post-El Mariarchi career has resulted in an eclectic supporting cast of faded mainstream icons (Seagal, a virtually unrecognisable Don Johnson) and current stars, though Michelle Rodriguez is eminently more compelling to watch than De Niro, if only because De Niro (even back when he was still cool) would never look this good in tight trousers, bra and eye patch.
The finale rewards the loyal with a Trejo vs. Seagal face-off, Lohan in a nun’s outfit, and the promise that Machete will return in Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again. In a sadly barren time for proper action exploitation movies, please bring them on.