Machete: Mexploitation master Robert Rodriguez is back with a triumph of decapitations, nudity, drugs and illegal immigrants all rolled into one 'big, mean burrito' of a movie. Actually, the mean burrito is Machete, an ex-federale with a face not even a mother could love. Machete wields his weapon of choice with uncanny efficiency, but a botched attempt at a kidnapping rescue gets his wife and daughter killed at the hands of drug lord Torrez. Machete is left for dead in a burning house with his own blade in his guts. How he survives and ends up in Texas is never explained. What's important is that he's going get another shot at Torrez. First, he has to navigate a minefield of stereotypes en route to the final showdown. And the casting of those stereotypes is where the genius of Machete shines through:
Steven Seagal as Torrez - Seagal's Spanish accent is just terrible, and it's delightful to see the bloated actor mocking himself and the martial arts moves that made him a star. As Torrez, he is evil incarnate. He wants your kids high, sure, but mostly he wants Machete dead. Woe to those who fail him!
Robert DeNiro as Senator McLaughlin - DeNiro eats up the role as a fake Texan lapdog politician spewing over-the-top platitudes about illegal immigrants, whom he compares to an infestation of cockroaches in a campaign video.
Jeff Fahey as Booth - Perfectly tanned and sporting a graying mullet, Booth is the senator's sleazy right hand with a yen for his own daughter.
Don Johnson (in his 'introductory' role) as Von - Johnson savors every word ('I'll have him dancing the bolero at the end of a rope') as the redneck vigilante border guard from hell.
Michelle Rodriguez as Luz/She - Rodriguez runs a taco stand by day and a revolutionary organization by night. Her alliance with Machete is what finally triggers la revolución!
Jessica Alba as Sartana - The jingoistic cop is all too eager to switch sides (we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us!!!) once she gets a load of Machete.
Cheech Marin as Padre - Cheech is Machete's brother, a priest who deals in lead, not mercy.
Lindsay Lohan as April: In possibly the most inspired bit of casting, Lohan spends the entirety of the film either naked (watch her take a refreshing dip in the pool) or in a nun's habit, but it's what she has under the habit that counts.
Danny Trejo as Machete - The most unlikely of stars takes the leading role and runs with it. Sneering every monosyllabic word he is afforded, Trejo kills and kills and, when he's not being bedded by every woman he sees, kills some more. You'll be amazed at what this guy can do with a bone scraper and 60 feet of human intestine.
To what end, all the absurdity? Yes, Rodriguez is flipping the bird at the border warring that dominates the headlines and, yes, he's flipping it mostly at you, Arizona. It's easy to get worked up about this stuff one way or another and in fact the politicians and newspapers make sure we are worked up about it most of the time. Critics say the film tries too hard to make a political point. I say thank you, Machete, for giving us a chance to laugh at the comedy. Official McBone Rating: 4.5 McBones
The Prestige: Christopher Nolan can spin a good yarn, I'll give him that. The Prestige is no exception. Somehow, though, seeing self-indulgent 19th century magicians go at each other in the name of the greatest trick becomes ponderous, pointless and way overwrought. Certainly well-crafted and mostly well-played (the exceptions are a rather hammy Hugh Jackman and his facial expressions and Scarlett Johanssen's semi-English accent), The Prestige's final trick is so carefully manipulated that it ultimately leaves you feeling cheated. 2.5 McBones