We’ve all seen movies that have only enough inspired moments to fill a two-minute trailer. Machete, however, may be the first feature actually adapted from its own coming attraction, which was originally concocted by Robert Rodriguez as part of his 2007 Grindhouse collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. Featuring the imposingly weather-beaten Danny Trejo as a pissed-off Mexican ex-Federale seeking revenge against the political machine that double-crossed him and left him for dead, that slice of mock exploitation allowed you to savor the high-concept idiocy without having to endure any attempts at sustained dialogue or the monotony of a bona fide plot. Now, if you like, you can experience all of those moments, plus a few equally inspired new ones, at the somnolent, so-bad-it-is-in-fact-pretty-bad pace of an authentic dirt-cheap trash flick.
Actually, I take that back. Real trash generally doesn’t work so hard at social consciousness. When Trejo’s Machete isn’t merrily lopping heads from shoulders or leaping his motorcycle over giant walls of flame, the film feels obliged to make a case for the value of immigration, juxtaposing saintly portraits of day laborers with cartoonishly unsavory (but rarely funny) depictions of Republican bigotry, notably from a sleepwalking Robert De Niro as the Senator Machete thought he’d been hired to kill. Mayhem is frustratingly intermittent, and the parade of B-list cameos—Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan in a nun’s habit—makes this ostensible homage to ’70s sleaze feel more like a late-night comedy sketch. Grindhouse has finally been announced for a DVD release; wait for that, and you can thoroughly enjoy Machete in less time than it takes to boil an egg.