Machete isn’t strictly a Spy Kids spinoff. The Machete character was conceived of while Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez worked together in 1996’s From Dusk to Dawn, before he appeared as the uncle of the child stars of the 2001 Spy Kids.
(And, to get nerdier about it, Machete seems to take place in an alternate universe of Spy Kids with similar characters, but distinctly darker. Rodriguez has endorsed this theory, pointing also to the fact that some Spy Kids actors appear in Machete films in different roles.)
But there’s still something perversely hilarious about how everything unfolded: A side character of a kids franchise transformed into star of an R-rated “Mexploitation” movie filled with violence and sex and edgy politics. I love it.
Machete first took life as a two-minute fake trailer in the 2007 Rodriguez/Tarantino collab Grindhouse, only to emerge as a full feature three years later.
The fake trailer promised a ludicrously over-the-top political satire and violent frenzy as oppressed Mexican immigrants turn against the bigoted political institutions and topple the corrupt figures, and the feature pretty much delivers.
It plays out as giddy bucket of fun (and blood). The film’s stylized violence isn’t quite as B-movie gritty as the fake trailer… but it’s not too far off. Heads and limbs are severed on a minute-by-minute basis; bullets flying with abandon; giant blades swinging and gleaming with red blood in one death orgy after another.
What blows my mind about Machete is how prescient it is. As big-ticket as the illegal immigration “crisis” was 2010, it was raised to new heights in 2016 with the ascension of Trump’s candidacy. The villain is a corrupt businessman politician demonizing Mexicans and campaigning to build a border wall, for crying out loud!
So, Machete is cathartic bit of political satire and fantasy bloodbath, but one that seems smarter today than ever as its raison d’etre has become more potent.
The cast is surprisingly loaded: In addition to Trejo, the film includes Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Savini, etc. etc. That star power raises the entertainment value quite a bit.
The movie revels in trashiness like a pig in slop, with some pointless T&A and moments of excess in just about every crevice. The ending is fine, but I kept hoping for an extra level 11 in the climax that never showed up. Or perhaps I was desensitized by the 90 minutes that preceded it.
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.