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Robert Rodriguez's 'Machete' slashes its way to the big screen with winning results

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Only director Robert Rodriguez can make a fake trailer from a previous movieDanny Trejo is "Machete." Photo from www.moviecarpet.com (2007's Grindhouse-which he directed with Quentin Tarantino) and several years later turn it into one of the most anticipated films of the 2010 fall movie season. Machete (which is co-directed by Ethan Maniquis) is in the same mold as Grindhouse- paying homage to 1950's-ish looking trailers and posters while combining the B-movie quality of exploitation films of all genres from the 1970's.

At the same time, the movie carries an underlying but positive pro-Mexican message. And whether it's the diverse cast of characters, or Rodriguez's rather "over-the-top" direction which he takes this film, Machete works quite well.

Danny Trejo (in his first ever starring role) plays Machete, an ex-Federale left for dead by a druglord named Torrez (played by Steven Seagal). Three years pass, and Machete finds himself in Texas as a laborer. When he gets recruited by Michael Benz (Jeff Fahey) for $150,000 to assassinate a local senator (Robert De Niro) who is campaigning to place an electric fence on the US border to prevent "parasites" from crossing over, Machete agrees.

Only problem is, it's a setup, and Machete now finds himself on the run from Benz while being pursued by Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba), who receives orders from Von Stillman (Don Johnson) to detain the ex-lawman. Assisting Machete is Luz/She (Michelle Rodriguez), who runs a taco stand for the laborers in town while running an underground network to assist illegal immigrants. Along the way, Machete beds several women, smokes a joint with his confession-recording, shotgun-wielding priest brother (Cheech Marin), and decapitates countless victims as he attempts to hunt down the men who set him up, as well as avenge the deaths of his wife and daughter, who were murdered by Torrez.

Honestly, an explanation of Machete's plot doesn't quite do the movie justice. What makes Machete the movie it is are the nuances that Rodriguez and the cast bring to the table. From its intentionally cheesy but well-written dialogue, Rodriguez's unorthodox (but ideal) editing, the unnecessary yet extremely gratuitous amounts of female nudity, the graphic violence which is mainly played for laughs, to Lindsay Lohan basically playing a caricature of her real-life self (until she actually lets her conscience be her guide), Machete is a movie you need to watch firsthand to truly absorb.

It's safe to say there will probably never be another film for quite some time that features this randomMichelle Rodriguez in "Machette." Photo from www.filmofilia.com of a cast. Halfway through Machete, you have to stop and ask yourself if you are actually watching a movie featuring Johnson (who once claimed he was better than De Niro, but De Niro gets better material), Seagal, and Johnson's Nash Bridges co-star Marin. This is the first meaningful movie Seagal has participated in since 2001's Exit Wounds, and to see him on the wrong side of the law for once is a nice change. The actor who looks like he's having the most fun is De Niro, who reportedly took the role when Chris Cooper rejected it.

Overall, the cast blends together nicely while not taking themselves too seriously with the exception of Trejo, who plays the title role with quiet intensity, but is also quick to drop a one liner or two.

And if you plan on seeing Machete, don't take it seriously, either. Just so you know, the body count by the end of the film rivals that of The Expendables, a man crashes out of a hospital window while hanging by his intestines, and the constant fawning over Machete by every female in the movie (Trejo won't exactly remind anyone of George Clooney) is so far out of left field you practically fall out of your chair laughing so hard.

Despite all its craziness, Machete does a great job of wrapping these elements together to merit a four out of five star rating.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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