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Tonight's Feature Presentation

MACHETE (2010)

Starring: Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Robert DeNiro, Cheech Marin, Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan

Written By: Robert Rodriguez, Alvaro Rodriguez Directed By: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis

The Short Version

Machete don’t text; Machete kicks ass.

When someone says “shameless action exploitation flick,” this is the movie they’re talking about.

There is some jaw-droppingly awesome violence in this flick, and Machete makes no apologies for it.

Steven Seagal is the villain for the first time ever.

Grab your tequila, grab your chaser, grab your ass, and get ready to rock with Machete!

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Hot and ready to be scooped up with tortilla chips for a kick ass snack.

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“I absolve you of all your sins.  Now get the fuck out!”

To call Machete a love letter to ultraviolent exploitation flicks of days gone by is to assign it too much class.  Instead, consider those ultraviolent exploitation flicks to be a really hot ex girlfriend blowing through town for the weekend for a nasty, hotel-room-trashing fling and then taking off on a motorcycle before Monday comes, and consider Machete the video of what happened.

It ain’t pretty, but pretty was never the point.  Neither was class, for that matter.  Machete is all about visceral nastiness and what you can get away with when the inhibitions and the chaperones go away.  Machete is all about constantly upping the ante to see just how many times you can get someone to say “Holy shit!” or “That was insane!”  Machete is all about not apologizing for the blood stains and the beer bottles and the shell casings and the condom wrappers when everything’s over.

Machete is all about giving the audience what it wants.  No more, no less.

Machete is all about kicking ass.

If you’ve got a problem with that, please feel free to run along and watch something safe and old fashioned like Yankee Doodle Dandy.  (And for those who complain that they really like the guns and all, but the movie’s “just too goddamn liberal,” please feel free to shove it.  It’s a freakin’ action movie.  If millions of liberal-minded people who wouldn’t be able to stomach a cop like Harry Callahan in real life can kick back and have a good time with Dirty Harry anyway, then you can grow up and enjoy Machete.  If not, as noted, the room playing Yankee Doodle Dandy is thataway.)  For the rest of you, grab some tequila and a chaser, and let’s party!

The character of Machete was a legend even before he finally got his movie in 2010.  In some form or another, Machete has been floating around the worlds of Robert Rodriguez since Spy Kids came out in 2001.  At least that was his public debut; Rodriguez supposedly had the character in his head for almost a decade already by that point.  Long story short, things finally came to a head when people saw the fake Machete trailer produced for the Grindhouse project Rodriguez worked on with Quentin Tarantino in 2007 and loved it.  Rodriguez got the green light, expanded on some things, and three years later, here we go!

As our story begins – once upon a time in Mexico, as it were – we meet Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo, Death Race 2), a Mexican Federale on his way to rescue a girl who’s been kidnapped by the notorious drug kingpin Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal, Above the Law).  He knows he’s expected, and his boss is telling him to hold off, but Machete plows ahead anyway.  His partner is killed during the first volley of gunfire, but Machete is quick to get revenge on the bad guys thanks to his signature weapon.  Unfortunately, he’s betrayed by the very (naked) girl he came to rescue, and Torrez steps in to gloat while Machete lies crumpled on the floor with an injured leg.  Torrez then proceeds to behead Machete’s wife right then and there, and implies that the same has already been done to his daughter.  There will be no beheading for Machete, though.  Instead, Torrez orders the building to be set on fire so that Machete can burn to death inside.

Flash forward three years to a nameless Texas city near the Mexican border.  Someone who looks suspiciously like Machete is hanging out at a day labor site looking for work, and as it turns out, a white dude by the name of Booth (Jeff Fahey, The Lawnmower Man) has a job for him.  Specifically, he needs someone to kill State Senator John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro, Heat), whose anti-immigrant rhetoric has been causing quite the stir around town.  Needless to say, the job offer isn’t exactly on the up and up, and a double-crossed Machete ends up a wanted criminal while McLaughlin ends up with a superficial leg wound from another man’s bullet and a sharp increase in the polls.

But Machete won’t stay on the run for long.  Machete don’t run.  Machete don’t text.  Machete gets evidence.  Machete gets revenge…

And more than anything else, Machete don’t apologize.

Machete don’t apologize for an opening gorefest that includes a no fewer than four severed heads in the first five minutes, plus a severed gun hand that still stays attached when Machete picks the weapon up and uses it.

Machete don’t apologize for the washed-out tints and “film scratches.”  They’re just part of the atmosphere, and they’re actually very effective for giving this flick a true “back to the 70s” feel.  Nice artistic touch.

Machete don’t apologize for bringing Steven Seagal back to the big screen where he belongs for the first time in eight years.  (Yeah, it had been that long.)  No, the loose clothes can’t hide the extra weight, but Seagal is still the man, and it is awesome to see him back to whack, katana in hand.  What’s more, for the first time ever, Seagal is the master villain.  He also does something else for the first time, too.  I’ll give you a hint: if he’s the villain, how do you think the final duel turns out?  That had never happened to Seagal before, though one could argue that it technically still doesn’t here.  Either way, it’s just great to see the man back in something that didn’t go direct to video.

Machete don’t apologize for Cheech, either.  We’re talkin’ Celebrity Jeopardy Champion Cheech Marin (From Dusk Till Dawn) as an ass-kickin’, double shotgun totin’ priest.  Cheech is always a treat, and even though his screen time is short, he’s got a way of sticking out in your memory.  Bonus points for giving a nod to his comedy roots: this priest has got some reefer in the rectory.

Machete don’t apologize for surgical knives on a string as an improvised flail from Hell.  Hot damn.

Machete don’t apologize for making the most awesome use of yanked out intestines ever.  If you thought the scene in Hannibal was something else, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  Major “holy shit!” moment right there.

Machete don’t apologize for Lindsay Lohan (Mean Girls).  While the rest of the world was taking potshots at her personal problems, Robert Rodriguez and company were happy to have her aboard, and she does great.  She has the presence of mind and the guts to make fun of herself (parallels with her character are simply impossible to avoid noticing), but at the same time she does a damn fine job of reminding people why she was in demand as an actress from an early age.  The “nun with a gun” scene is intense… and let’s face it, you also appreciate the fact the she spends a lot of time undressed.

Machete don’t apologize for the “bow-chikka-wow-wow” music whenever the ladies are ready to play.

Machete don’t apologize for making a man in his 60s an action hero.  When you’ve got it, you’ve got it.  It worked for Charles Bronson, and it’s still working for that Stallone guy, so why not Danny Trejo?

Machete don’t apologize for taking it over the top as often as possible without reaching the point of overload.  Decapitations.  Through-the-door-impalement.  A crucifixion.  A Gatling gun mounted on the handlebars of a motorcycle.  Clean?  Reserved?  Ha!  That’s not the point.  The point is taking it to the limit and giving the audience what it wants.  Period.  If you don’t understand that, then you’re probably not part of the crowd this was made for to begin with.

Machete don’t apologize for anything, nor does it need to.  (All right, maybe an apology is in order for the fake digital nudity on Jessica Alba, but that’s it.  If she didn’t want to go nude, then fine; cut the scene.  In a movie that’s all about keeping it real, that one bit of fakery definitely doesn’t belong.)

I admit being rather vexed when I read about people complaining that the full-on Machete “doesn’t live up to the promise” of the fake trailer from Grindhouse.  This, to me, is ridiculous.  I made sure to watch that trailer again along with the movie, and my only explanation for those who were disappointed is that they were either drunk or that they are using that complaint as a BS cover for not liking the politics.  Machete not only lives up to the promise of that trailer, but frankly, it exceeds expectations.  This movie is as balls-to-the-walls as you can get without entering Stupid Overload Territory (trademark pending by Michael “Let’s See If We Can Make A Whole Audience Puke From Motion Sickness” Bay).  The drama added by the fleshed out plot only serves to make the action more intense, and the “character stuff” is a blast.  I was snickering like crazy while Jeff Fahey’s character went on his racist rant while asking his daughter to pass him a taco and some salsa.  The grief experienced by Lindsay Lohan’s character later on is awesomely realized, and amplifies what started as just a cool image of a nun with a gun into something way more powerful.  “In the name of my father…”  Damn.  How can this movie possibly fail to live up to its promise?

Machete don’t need to apologize, because Machete don’t fail.

Bottom line, Machete kicks ass, and if you’re an action fan, you’re going to want to watch this one over and over again, so you might as well own it.  (And make sure to check out the deleted scenes for some subplots that got cut out, including a twin sister angle and the addition of Rose McGowan as a razor-wielding assassin.)

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, December, 2011

This review is in honor of my friend and old partner in crime, Kenner. Viva action movies!

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

Promotional/still images copyright their original authors. If you're going to drink, please do so legally and responsibly. Thanks.