De Niro’s presence here is baffling. He plays a red meat, red state politician, briefly labeled as an independent. His heart is so cold that he tapes himself killing illegal immigrants so he can show the footage to his base.
“Our supporters are gonna like that a lot,” he says.
At times, the dialogue in Machete sounds like an Air America broadcast — not that many people would even know what that is. “This state runs on illegal immigration … it keeps the wheels turning,” Fahey’s character says at one point
This doesn’t mean Machete doesn’t have its goofy moments. Consider Machete’s escape during a gun fight using the intestines of an enemy as rope, or how Seagal riffs on his own image to give his villain some bite.
Cheech Marin provides the film’s few laughs playing Machete’s brother, a priest who knows how to expunge sin — and kick arse as well.
Let’s not forget Lohan’s turn as the daughter of the man who set Machete up. It’s an embarrassing role on too many levels to count, but let’s tick off the top three: she’s naked in the movie as if she were an unknown starlet in a Skinemax flick, her character’s first scene has her strung out on drugs, and she dresses up as a nun for no other reason than the image looks cool on the poster.
Machete’s script hits a rare profound note when one character wonders why Americans let illegals watch their children but won’t let them become citizens. But it’s soon back to business as usual, painting border enforcing Americans as hate mongers.
“There’s the law, and then there’s what’s right,” Alba says at one point. Then: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”
The only agitprop missing is the Glenn Beck doppelganger, but since the film’s creators are already discussing sequels perhaps they’re saving him for Machete: Part II.
Rodriguez shares directing honors here with longtime editor Ethan Maniquis, and it’s tempting to say the former let the latter take the reins. Rodriguez is responsible for one of the most watchable horror romps in recent memory, From Dusk Till Dawn, and even his misfires are crudely compelling.
His light touch is sorely missing here.
The fake Machete trailer promises thrills, kills, and glorious B-movie fun. The actual movie is an ugly mash-up of ham-fisted rhetoric and limp action that won’t change a single heart or mind.