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Time Out New York Project: Issue #780, September 9-15, 2010
Dirs. Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez. 2010. R. 105mins. Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba.
The fake Machete trailer was a rousing start to the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse project, giving us the glorious sight of menacing character actor Danny Trejo upgraded to leading man status as the titular ass-kicking vigilante. Several of the best bits — like the kiss-off Cheech Marin’s gun-toting priest bestows on a pissing-his-pants adversary (“God has mercy. I don’t!”) — make it into this feature-length expansion. But it’s mostly a grind: Tons of new narrative deadweight (self-satisfied references to the current immigration debate; a listless Lindsay Lohan as a habit-clad avenger) dilute the thrill of the film’s cheerily exploitative high points.
This is the kind of movie in which it’s considered the zenith of meta-wit to have a slumming Robert De Niro (as Machete’s racist politico nemesis) drive a taxi. But Trejo brings both playfulness and gravitas to the archly juvenile proceedings, even as codirector-cowriter Rodriguez treats him like a cutaway sight gag — a go-to goose whenever things bog down. Machete beds the ladies with eau de libido ease and uses a guy’s intestines to swing around, Tarzan-style. Yet the representative moment of this scarred-by-life superman comes when vapid lady of la migra Jessica Alba offers him a mobile phone: “Machete don’t text,” he demurs. Guaranteed you’ll shed a bromantic tear while your iProducts die of fright.—Keith Uhlich