"You just f**ked with the wrong Mexican."
In the early eighties there was just a three-score movie rating system: G, PG,and R. It was a pretty big divide between the latter two, and the result was that anything less than an R-rating for an action movie was the kiss of death.
The PG-13 rating was introduced in 1984, and it didn't happen overnight, but the end result is that PG-13 has been so effective in making the system actually mean something (even if the lines between the ratings are pretty ridiculous sometimes)... that an R-rating is taken more seriously by parents and is now a potential loss of revenue. And as such, Hollywood studios shy away from it, and go so far as to contractually obligate directors to bring the movie in at a PG-13 rating. Overall, I think it's not a bad thing, but sometimes you really get a sense that they're holding back in some movies.
Fun fact: The first movie released with a PG-13 rating was Red Dawn. A remake of Red Dawn is coming later this year.
The flip side of that is that when Hollywood does make an R-rated movie now, they are committed to it, because the producers have managed to convince the studio heads that the R-rating is necessary to make the movie work and bring in the maximum amount of money. In the action genre, it generally means you're promising a spectacle of violence. When Robert Rodriguez does it, however, it doesn't just feel like a spectacle... it feels like a celebration.
That last line either excites you or repulses you. If it excites you, then I don't think you'll be disappointed by this movie. I'd go so far as to calling this the pinnacle of Rodriguez's directing AND WRITING career (ie, excluding Sin City and Dusk til Dawn), because at the end I can actually remember the flow of the story, as opposed to, say, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, which had some really memorable scenes, but I'm sometimes a bit fuzzy as to how they fit into the plot.
Oh, yeah, there is a plot, but in this case I think describing the major players paints a good enough picture: Machete is a Mexican Federale driven out of Mexico into Texas by a drug lord (Steven Segal). There's a state Senator (Robert Deniro) in Texas trying to ride the illegal immigration ticket to reelection. There's an anti-immigration agent played by Jessica Alba, and Michelle Rodriguez is the head of the immigration underground. Oh, and Cheech plays "Padre", Machete's well-armed priest.
About the only thing I didn't like in this movie was Lindsay Lohan. And it's not so much a criticism of how she's used in the film, though she does come off as painfully bad... it's just that at this point, it's uncomfortable to watch her. I wonder how drugged up she was during the filming of this movie. I think that the only reason she's in the movie is because she's desperate enough for a big role that she'd appear topless. And she's really not that attractive anymore. It all just makes me sad every time she's on the screen.
This movie is the most beautiful spectacle of violence to come out in the last two or three years... and it leaves me excited for Rodriguez to finally make the next Sin City movie. So why is his next release another Spy Kids flick, then? 4/5 stars.