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Over the years I've had a bit of a habit of watching just about every movie that Steven Seagal has ever made and although that has waned recently, I was very keen to see Machete. The film is an extended version of a trailer made in 2007 for Grindhouse and now Robert Rodriguez has developed the concept further and turned it into a feature movie. I've read varying reviews of the film and wasn't particularly sure what to expect when I sat down to watch it last night, but I was pretty open and ready to form a considered opinion.
Whilst trying to capture a witness against drug lord Rogelio Torrez, Machete, a Mexican Federale, sees his wife killed and is left for dead. Fast forward 3 years and he illegally crosses the border into Texas to try and start a new life and forget the horrors of the past. In his search for work he is hired to assassinate a US Senator, however there is a double cross and a second shooter who tries to take Machete out. He manages to escape but now everyone is looking for him and Machete must battle to stay alive and bring the bad guys to justice.
Blood, Guts and Gore
It would be fair to say that this is one of the most violent films I have watched in a long time, from heads being chopped off and people being shot in the eye to the scene where Machete uses a guy's intestines to swing out of a window. It's a feature of Rodriguez work that he tends to push the envelope and he certainly does that here. The film flows quite well with stunning special effects, but really lacks in character development. That however is one of the main features of an exploitation film in that it portrays high levels of violence gore and nudity and leaves the character development to a minimum.
I've read a number of reviews of this film that really detract from it because of the lack of development. I wasn't particularly sure of Machete due to the grainy start to the film, but looking back it added a little to the feel of the movie. The script isn't great and the film is full of corny one liners and stilted dialogue, but that is quickly brushed aside by the fast paced action and the excessive gore. It's also amazing that for a man that doesn't say a lot, all of the films beautiful leading ladies seem to fall at his feet.
As the lead character had to be of Mexican origin it was perhaps a no brainer that the role would go to everyone's favourite Mexican bad ass Danny Trejo. If you look back over his CV, he plays this type of role often and it works. He doesn't say a lot but what he does say seems to get results. He seems to have the films leading ladies, played by Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsey Lohan, falling at his feet. The performances from Alba and Rodriguez are assured and really add something to the plot, whilst Lohan plays a drug addicted model, perhaps the casting choice there wasn't far off the mark.
The reason I was so keen to see this film though was due to the appearance of Steven Seagal as Mexican drug lord Torrez. Sadly his part was quite restricted and like a number of his films his voice sounded a bit too strained and unnatural. I was sadly disappointed with his role as despite being one of the lead characters he doesn't really contribute much. The main protagonists in the movie are actually Robert De Niro as the Senator and Jeff Fahey as his assistant. Both actors put in good performances that help to keep the action flowing, but I won't say how or why, so as not to give it away.
Better Than I Thought
Even though I have seen better films this year, I did really enjoy Machete. It was a little different and focused on the action with a slight tinge of black comedy to make it successful. I doubt that I would buy it though and was quite glad it was on sky movies. It's a decent film if you like your action movies with plenty of violence, blood and gore. It's a decent movie that held my interest throughout its 105 minute runtime. For fans of Rodriguez this is a good movie but if you don't like your violence too graphic then stay away. For me this is a film that I'd recommend and enjoyed, but probably wouldn't watch again
Robert Rodriguez is the sort of director that manages to draw you in with entertainment while keeping the whole thing tongue in cheek and a bit silly. Machete is no different to this style, with the machete wielding Danny Trejo taking the title role on in a much deserved lead role that won't win him an Oscar but is sure to win him a number of fans to add to the cult following he already has.
The film opens with classic Rodriguez style action, the gruesome use of the machete and Trejo's stone faced approach to the role introducing us to the back plot that sees him setting off on a revenge mission against mob boss Steven Segal. But the main plot is one involving a number of established B movie stars mingled with some A listers as political corruption enters the frame to make a gentle attempt at some credibility in terms of plot. It's an already established one as Machete is hired to take down a Senator looking to get voted in on the back of promises to wipe out Mexican immigration. However, Machete is set up and almost killed himself, and thus begins yet more revenge as he teams up with The Network, led by Michelle Rodriguez's taco selling alpha female Luz, a group created and dedicated to housing Mexican immigrants and protecting them against political corruption and the violence behind the scenes. 'Welcome to America' utters Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) as he shoots a Mexican trying to cross the border.
Make no mistake, there is nothing overly complicated about this film. It's pitched as a gentle and tongue in cheek film that pokes fun at itself more than anything else. However, there is certainly something of a political message in the film and it's no doubt an element that Americans and Mexicans will be debating and fighting over for years to come, and Rodriguez explores it with a light hearted yet violent approach (if that is indeed possible!). He does this by putting a number of actors together in a film you'd not expect to see them in. Jeff Fahey, Trejo and Cheech Marin present the B movie supporting actor box ticking, while A listers De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez and Jessica Alba upset the balance. The inclusion of recognisables such as Segal, Don Johnson and Lindsay Lohan are clever additions even if their roles are somewhat different to what we're used to. Director Robert Rodriguez certainly knows how to cast his films, thinking carefully about how his stars are seen by the public, and they all perform very well, almost over acting in a deliberate attempt to push forward the tongue in cheek pitch of the film.
As a political message, this film is subtly but definitively done. However, it's more of a violent action film with some heavy sounds than a political drama. Anyone watching the film will see the politics involved but it's definitely about the title role and how Machete himself goes about exacting revenge on everyone left, right and centre. Scenes such as having a threesome with Fahey's wife and daughter, people getting shot and tortured in visually graphic ways, and Cheech Marin's priest with dangerous contacts and a steady supply of weaponry - everything makes you want to smile in that knowing way. Robert Rodriguez certainly has that touch of Tarantino about his work, although he has stayed firmly on a B movie style of presentation and keeping things simple, whereas Quentin has gone down the quirky and wordy mainstream style with his presentations. I'm not sure which I prefer, and both have their place.
Machete is a highly enjoyable film that has enough going on with plot to keep you interested at the same time as giving us virtually non stop action and a whole heap of violence. Its political incorrectness is pushed forward and the mix of controversy in the film means that there'll be a few who won't like this - it certainly doesn't pull any punches, nor would you expect it to. This sort of film needs to pitch at an audience wishing to soak up pure unadulterated movie making that pokes fun at politics as well as throwing violence at it too. Highly recommended - loved it.
Run Time -105 minutes
Genre - Exploitation B-Movie
There's no doubt that Quentin Tarantino has been left behind by his contemporary and best mate in Robert Rodriguez, the student now the master. Tarantino's first two films were astoundingly good but it soon began to tail off after the rather convoluted Jacky Brown. Rodriguez, on the other hand, is on the up curve and his enjoyable Grind House B-Movie style is becoming increasingly watchable, Planet Terror great fun and Machete also extremely watchable. He's not a perfectionist like Quentin and just wants to have fun between the mutilations on screen the way Eli Roth does with likewise horror movies. But Tarantino started getting all pretentious and has work has sadly become a self-parody of itself.
This film was born out of a spoof trailer Rodriguez made to help authenticate his Grindhouse double feature which included Planet Terror. His fans claim they kept badgering him after Planet Terror to make a movie around Danny Trejo's Machete killer character featured in that trailer, but Rodriguez countering that by saying he had this film in mind ever since he made the excellent Desperado back in 1993, where Machete featured prominently as the same assassin character, chasing down the then incredibly sexy Salma Hayak and Antonio Banderas. Whatever the reason it was a good idea to make this as its great laddish fun in true 'slash em and trash em' exploitation style and needs to be added to the boy's rental lists soon.
Danny Trejo ... Machete Cortez
Robert De Niro ... Senator John McLaughlin
Jessica Alba ... Sartana
Steven Seagal ... Rogelio Torrez
Michelle Rodriguez ... Luz
Jeff Fahey ... Michael Booth
Cheech Marin ... Padre Cortez
Don Johnson ... Von Jackson
Shea Whigham ... Sniper
Lindsay Lohan ... April Booth
Tom Savini ... Osiris Amanpour
Daryl Sabara ... Julio
Gilbert Trejo ... Jorge
Electra Avellan ... Nurse Mona
So, after an extremely gruesome opening with Machete's fearsome weapon in full swing, opening up heads, guts and goons, our Mexican assassin is soon facing his fete from underneath mob boss Rogelio Torrez (Steve Seagal no less, the knuckleheads first movie as an out-and-out bad guy) boot, bought down by a naked girl and an unholy mobile phone extraction, left for dead with his wife and mother laying dead besides him. We then flash forward three long years and Machete (Trego) is safe and well and minding his own in downtown Austin as an illegal immigrant.
Machete is soon back in work when a dodgy spin doctor/businessman by the name of Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) makes Machete an offer he cant refuse, $150,000 to kill Texas State Senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), Machette killed by his goons if he doesn't take the job. McLaughlin is running on an anti immigration ticket and his number one policy is Mexican illegal's being repatriated by the end of his boot, enough to persuade Machete to go ahead with it.
In position he is double-crossed and the senator hit in the leg by another shooter, soon revealed that it was Booths men behind it to make the senator look stronger by being shot by one of those very same illegal immigrants. On the run he seeks help from The Network, a secretive network of Mexicans who help each other to sustain their illegal lives in America, headed by the sexy Taco van owner Luz (Michelle Rodriguez).
Hot on his heels (with the emphasis on hot) is sexy law enforcement officer Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba), who, at first, thinks Machette is the bad guy but soon teaming up with him to bring down the senators corrupt political ambitions, and Machete then teaming up with the 'Network' to get even with Torrez and his men for killing his family, all inexorably linked through drugs and influence, Machetes machete soon working overtime..
Senator McLaughlin: [after shooting a Mexican trying to cross the border] Welcome to America!
This is great fun, a joyous tongue-in-cheek retro B-Movie slash fest from the man who is the best at it. Packed full of an ironic cheesy period cast like Cheech Marin and Jeff Faye you giggle and wince all the way through. We have everything here. From sexy Lindsay Lohan dressed as a nun between making incest movie with her sexy screen mom to the best use of intestines in a movie since Dog Soldiers, the whole thing styles and delivered in true 1970's exploitation style as many of the characters from previous Rodriguez films are given the run of the place. The guy who plays Machete is an extraordinary looking chap and the decision to let him have his own film here works well here.
Although Tarantino produces a lot of Rodriguez films and the two are in a symbiotic film relationship its clear now that Tarantino is riding on the back of his mate now as the dynamic has changed. I look forward to Rodriguez movies and just don't with Tarantino any more. Rodriguez still gets the critical point with this type of movie that it must remain tongue-in-cheek and silly and not take itself too seriously and become a self parody of previous work, exactly Quentin's problem for me.
From it $10 million budget it got $22 million back, great business for this type of movie, a sequel sure to follow. A cult following pack the cinemas to worship his stuff and his films always do good DVD business. Yes it's a lad's film but if grown up girls can play video games then they can have fun with the boys here.
The LA Times - "Robert Rodriguez... brings his A game to the Z-grade, reveling in the cheesiness and over-the-top violence".
The Times -"Turning all known manifestations of the classic western on their heads when not simply decapitating them in droves, Machete detonates the battle around immigration like no Tea Party rally ever could, in this get even bilingual guerrilla warfare satire"
The Melbourne Age -"Yet another missed opportunity from Rodriguez who relies on hammy performances from acting legends instead of adequately attempting to recreate the genre he claims to love"
The Jurez Messenger -"Un entretenimiento crudo, básico, con personajes de una sola pieza, algunos diálogos increíbles y generosas dosis de sangre y desmembramientos. Un homenaje de Robert Rodríguez al cine clase B que tanto le gusta"
Imdb.com - 7.1 out of 10.0 (51,756 votes)
Metacritc.com - 60% critic's approval rating (59% approval rating)
Rottentomatos.com - 73% critic's approval rating (66% user rating)
= = = = Special Features = = = =
Quite a few with plenty of blood bags bursting.
-Audience reaction by scene-
A layered track lets you hear the audience reactions throughout the test screening.
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If you are a fan of Rodriguez and Tarantino style films then you have probably already seen this and loved it.
Kitsch, violent and stylish with that independent film style that adds a rawness that you'll either think is cheap or suits the film.
Danny Trejo (usually bit parts like in Heat, Desperado, Dusk Til Dawn...) is the lead character Machete who is an elite mexican police officer whose family is killed. He escapes across the border with his life and soon becomes embroiled in an assassination attempt which leads into a convoluted plot regarding the US policy on immigration and Machete getting vengeance on his family's killer.
The action is pretty good. Plenty of good fights and good uses of different implements from Machete to cause maximum damage to his foes. Some of them are hilarious. The pace of the film is as fast as the action so moves along quickly and may seem a bit disjointed having to flip from scene to scene to scene but that adds a comic book feel and suits the film.
Best parts of film
Steven Seagal - fortunately a cameo so no need to put up with buddhist musings
Lindsay Lohan in a nuns costume?!
Michelle Rodriguez (fast n furious) - Man, she is HOT. Especially later on. Watch it.
I'm not a film buff but do enjoy alot of different films and this entertained me. It's a silly action film so if you're up for watching something like that then definitely check it out.
For those wanting to delve deeper into bizarre Mexican action-fest then find 'Nuns and Guns'. (it may be under another title but the film has nuns and guns in it) It's also quite violent and very darkly amusing.
Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis
Writers: Robert Rodriguez, Álvaro Rodriguez
Starring Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro
Released: 28th March 2011
Running time: 105 minutes
Format: DVD and Blu-ray (reviewed on DVD)
Machete is co-written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis. It's an enjoyable feature length version of the 'fake' film trailer seen on the Rodriguez / Tarantino collaboration Grindhouse which was a double feature of Planet Terror and Death Proof. It's great to see this trailer being expanded into a full film as there was a lot of interest in the 'fake' trailer when it was aired on the Grindhouse films.
Danny Trejo stars in his first lead role as the eponymous Machete. He does a good job... especially considering his age... he's 66!
Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez head up the supporting cast with Cheech Marin and Jeff Fahey also returning to the roles that they played in the original 'fake' trailer. The supporting cast are all pretty big name actors so, it's very impressive that Rodriguez has managed to get them all together to appear in this film in what are actually supporting roles... De Niro and Alba in particular are capable of being lead stars in any film so it's testimony to Rodriquez's Hollywood pulling power that he could get these actors on board. Of course it's a fun film so they probably were more than happy to sign on.
Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) is an illegal immigrant living in the US. He was once a Mexican Federale, which I think means some sort of law enforcer that gets the job done whatever the cost and with the use of a bloody massive knife.
The level of violence in the film is high from the very beginning with bloody, gory killings throughout. At the start Machete is on a mission to rescue a kidnapped girl. He kills everyone and then finds out that the girl didn't exactly want to be saved. Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal) is the drug lord that kills Machete's wife and child who Machete is looking to get vengeance on.
Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) is the aid to the Texas State Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) who is hell-bent on 'deporting' (preferably by death) as many illegal immigrants as he can. Booth offers Machete $150,000 to kill McLaughlin but it's a double cross in order to increase McLaughlin's ratings in the polls.
The direction is good and the pacing is also good. It's a slight plot that's been stretched a little to fill 105 minutes but it's a fun, enjoyable film that doesn't go on too long or outstay its welcome. It's been put together on a small budget of just $10m but it goes to show that a decent film doesn't have to cost $100m.
Here's looking forward to more blood-soaked fun in the potential Machete sequels, titled Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again.
Well recommended to anyone that likes more adult content and a bit of blood and guts!
If you can remember back as far as 2007, you will recall that there was a not-very-popular (both critically and commercially) film called "Grindhouse," an attempt made by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino to make the idea of a double feature film more appealing. It didn't work out so well but you will also recall that there was a fake trailer made to fill the gap between the two separate films. That trailer was "Machete" and what was going to remain as a "fake" preview became so popular that now, in the year 2010, we finally get the full-length feature film. And as we can all expect from a film directed by Rodriguez, the final result is a mixed bag of blood and sex but with a regrettably convoluted plot that distracts the film from having a proper go at providing some gory fun.
Danny Trejo has dazzled the screen for years in many different films as charismatic, tough antiheroes or villains. He looks the part and you can't picture him in any other roles. Which is why he is the perfect actor for "Machete," which tells the story of a brutal and aggressive ex-Federale who has vengeance at heart. After his operation goes awry in Mexico, his double-crossing boss and ruthless druglord murder his family and leave him to die in a burning house. But Machete, being the hard man that he is, survives this and escapes to Texas, working as a illegal immigrant, carrying out odd jobs for much-needed cash. One day he gets an enticing offer from a greedy-looking, deep-voiced business man Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey). He is offered $150,000 in cash for the assassination of an outrageously racist US Senator (Robert de Niro) who is up for re-election. How he first got elected doesn't exactly matter. This is Texas after all. But Machete finds himself betrayed again, after the assassination attempt also goes south. This guy just cannot catch a break. He is now running from the law, from the people who hired him in the first place and also from an ambitious Immigrations Officer Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) who is determined to deport anyone who has crossed the border illegally and to uphold the law. He does have help from his fellow Mexican amigos, the stand-out being Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), a taco-truck lady who merely uses the van she owns as a cover whilst she carries out more dangerous tasks involving illegal immigration and revolutionary movement.
Losing his family early on in the film, Machete is given the predictable "he's got nothing to lose" kind of characteristic that makes him to unimaginable things to complete his mission. Other than that not much is told about this man, apart from the fact that he is a skilled and often brutal killer who can use a range of weapons for the purpose of spilling his enemy's blood. This is a good thing in fact, since Trejo would not have been able to portray anything deeper or more sophisticated than that. His moody, dark expression that is effortlessly sustained throughout is all the film requires of him and he nails the role. His knife/gun/chainsaw-wielding skills are put to good use here, as he refreshingly hacks away at the many parts of the baddies with no difficulty.
Even after the terrific opening sequence, Rodriguez never gives up trying to impress the audience with his endlessly imaginative action set-pieces. Yes, a lot of them are bonkers, but that is exactly what made "Sin City" so great. It has the exact same effect here. The biggest highlight most definitely involves Machete pulling out a guy's intestine to use as rope. Completely nuts and implausible, but watching Trejo commit to something like that so casually is pure entertainment. Machete also happens to be a reasonable guy which we all sort of saw coming. He doesn't automatically opt for severing heads - if the baddies can learn their lesson with a little bump on the head, that's exactly what he gives them. It's not just Trejo who gets to slice people up. Alba lands a feisty role that surprisingly suits her skim body and watching her fend off someone twice her size with her high-heel shoes is again, ridiculous, but fun. Watching Michelle Rodriguez act tough is a common occurrence, something she handles incredibly well, and here is no exception.
Moving at a rapid pace balancing hectic action and a plot that unexpectedly deals with racism, immigration and politics (although never in too much detail that could potentially detract certain members of the audience), Rodriguez relies on a killer soundtrack to comfortably move events along. It's a set of compositions that certainly evokes feeling of all the dirty, humble and trashy 70s blood-gore-sex romps. The gritty, down-to-earth atmosphere the music creates ties in nicely with Rodriguez's visual style, something he clearly has eyes for. The confident choppy editing only further emphasises the film's rough and energetic tone.
Unlike "The Expendables," an equally absurd film with relentless action, Rodriguez knows how to make proper use of his range of outstanding cameo stars. Steven Seagal, whose films have not seen the inside of a cinema for a while now makes a welcome return as the trash-talking, brutal antagonist. His duel with Trejo is intense but his climatic scene makes little sense which is a shame. Don Johnson is scaringly convincing as the power-hungry border-patrolling vigilante with a private army of his own. Lindsay Lohan has a small part, but the role of a drug-addicted, attention-seeking teen shares striking similarities with the actress' personal life - so no room for screw-ups there. De Niro seems to have most fun as the mega-racist, fascist Senator who has moments of humourous monologues in what must be the actor's simplest and easiest role to date.
Nothing can be easier to watch than "Machete." It's the perfect grown-up, masculine, Friday night-out film that breezes through its absurdly entertaining action scenes with memorable performances and a somewhat thought-provoking plot. The underlying serious subject matter is deliberately left untouched in places because let's be honest, who gives a damn about politics when you have arms, legs and heads flying all over the place?
I heard somewhat good things about Machete and the average to positive reviews of the film also contributed, but what made me really want to see this was Michelle Rodriquez. After seeing her in Avatar, she made an instant impression.
~~~THOUGHTS ON PLOT~~~
Machete (Danny Trejo)'s family was killed by Warlord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Three years later, Machete is framed for the shooting of the senator (Robert DeNiro) and is on the run from both Mexican and American forces.
With the help of Sartana (Jessica Alba) who is an immigrations officer, realising the truth and justice of the situation, Machete takes revenge on Torrez and the unjustified plans of Senator McLaughlin to build an electric fence on the American Mexican border.
Whilst the plot seems serious and quite interesting, the execution of it is far less so. The instant style of the movie is set with the excessively fake blood spats and the amputated ligaments flying everywhere in the opening scene, which is consistent throughout.
At times, the storyline is sidelined for some unnecessary nudity (Lindsay Lohan, what are you doing!) but mostly follows a linear path. In this way, this film isn't as confusing plot wise, which is a good thing, but I just don't really like the style of it.
Action is consistent throughout, and there are many scenes where conveniently placed scalpels, wine bottle openers and vases are put to good use. Jessica Alba grabbing a pair of high heels and stabbing a man in the eye is priceless.
But what I watched the movie for was of course Michelle Rodriguez who is the real gem in this movie for me. Not only does she play soft, but there is a hard element to her in the final explosive scene. I love her witty lines and she is developing a strong attitude and style to her roles, which I hope she doesn't get typecast for.
The finale is explosive and gigantic and there is great action, but the ending is perhaps a bit abrupt- was it just me or was Jessica Alba kissing Danny Trejo a tad uncomfortable?
Danny Trejo- Machete
Jessica Alba- Sartana
Michelle Rodriguez- Luz
Steven Seagal- Torrez
Robert DeNiro- Senator McLaughlin
Also stars Lindsay Lohan
Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriquez both shined through, whilst everyone else held their own. Lindsay Lohan was a complete mess and it was like she was 15 again- her acting skills have not improved and she is unbelievable even in her small role.
Machete tries to do something new and in some respects it has, but overall the movie doesn't work for me. It seems like they aimed the film at men who like boobs and blood, but the storyline really could've worked to become a more serious and respectable film. Alba and Rodriguez are fab in this movie, but I wouldn't watch it again.
If you ever go to Tijuana, you may notice two important differences between crossing the border from San Diego into Mexico, and then back again. Firstly, immigration control: on the way back you'll encounter some. Secondly, displayed on the Mexican side of the border fence on large white crucifixes are the names of all those who have died trying to illegally cross the border into America. Seeking either asylum or economic betterment, many thousands make the attempt every year. Those who succeed form an underclass derided as "wetbacks", and are forced by their immigration status to take menial cash-in-hand jobs to survive, denied the safeguards of either a minimum wage or union protection. Those who don't face deportation or worse - many of those crucifixes simply bear the words: "No Identificado".
Machete, played by Danny Trejo, is one of those who made it. Having fallen foul of corrupt law enforcement officials working hand-in-hand with drug cartels in his homeland, he flees to Texas and comes to the attention of local businessman Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey). Booth offers him $150,000 to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert de Niro), a politician who is seeking re-election on an anti-immigration ticket, but whose support is falling in the polls. The Mexican accepts under duress, but soon discovers he's been set up as a patsy: as he sets his sights, one of Booth's own henchmen shoots McLaughlin in the leg, then turns his fire on Machete. Booth's real plan is to shore up support for the racist senator, so that tax dollars will be spent on constructing a more dangerous electrified fence along the border. That way, he will be able to regulate the flow of immigrants entering the United States, and consequently profit by controlling the price of immigrant smuggling and immigrant labour. What better way to secure McLaughlin's re-election than by orchestrating a scenario whereby a no-good wetback has attempted to shoot the very politician trying to shut his kind out?
Machete escapes the scene of course and the remainder of this action movie revolves around the efforts by both the gangsters and immigration officials to bring him in, and Machete's fight to clear his name and overcome his enemies. But while the subject matter may be a serious one, this is a Robert Rodriguez work in the gloriously over-the-top style of Desperado and From Dusk Til Dawn. Bombs, boobs, bullets and blades are the order of the day here, and we can all get on board rooting for the put-upon Mexican underdogs in their battle to free themselves from their industrial and political tyrants. Fixed firmly in Rodriguez's Tex-Mex underworld of outrageous fantasy, we can feel safely reassured that the suspension of disbelief the film requires means that that not even the most easily influenced viewer who'd gone to a cinema seeking a machismo fix could possibly leave concluding that the answer to any of his problems lie down the barrel of a gun.
Further strengths lie in the cast and acting. As well as those mentioned, we have Cheech Marin playing a priest, a heavyweight Steven Seagal playing a drug lord, Michelle Rodriguez as a revolutionary taco vendor known as Shé, Miami Vice's Don Johnson as a border vigilante, and both Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan in the nip. The lead, Danny Trejo - you may remember him as the knife-wielding assassin in Desperado - makes up in simmering meanness what he lacks in classic Hollywood good looks. While the acting demands would hardly have stretched Antonio Banderas, it has to be said that Trejo smoulders more on screen - nonetheless, I would have liked to have seen more than just the one-dimensional strong silent type to his character than is offered here.
But this is nit-picking. This outpouring of explosions and gore offered here is enjoyable escapist fun, and judged as such on its own merits, deserves all five stars for its style. It's old school goodies v baddies done tongue in cheek, and is thereby immune from any criticism of being simplistic or passé. Good job too, because it also gets away with some killer one liners that'll leave you laughing out loud - "Machete don't text" indeed - and some babes in bikinis spraying machine gun fire far and wide. Get in the spirit of it rather than deride it for shallowness, I say, and bring on the sequels.
Film. Of. The. Year.
Oh, and add one more "G" to that subtitle above - Great 'Tache. A champion of facial hair like that sported by Machete (Danny Trejo) here deserves lauding.
With three beheadings, one severed limb and several litres of blood-letting on the walls, Machete isn't slow to get where it's going. And that's even before Steven Seagal shows up. Based on a spoof trailer from the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino effort Grindhouse, and telling the tale of a knarled, implausibly seductive sixty-five year old's against-the-odds revenge mission, Machete may not be everyone's idea of a promising hour-and-forty-five minutes, but it ends up as a relentlessly entertaining blood-soaked, gun-toting exploitation movie that succeeds in its every ambition. Which may not be much beyond blowing things up and finding excuses for pension-ready Danny Trejo to romp around with women half his age, but tick all the boxes it nonetheless does.
Beaten-up and half-packed-up, Machete Cortez arrives in a dusty border town in the midst of his search for the drug lord (Seagal) who carved up his family. Having accepted an assassination mission from the silver-tongued Michael Booth (Lost's Jeff Fahey), he soon realises he's been set up as part of an elaborate conspiracy lead by the sleazy Senator McLaughlin (Robert de Niro, having enormous fun). On the run and looking for revenge, he executes his brutal vengeance with the help of Michelle Rodriguez's taco seller-cum-border smuggler and his trusty, rusty machetes. Of which he has a lot.
Such a delightfully big-name cast for such an ostensibly low-brow movie speaks volumes about just how much fun Machete is. You spend the first ten minutes or so wondering just how seriously the film's taking itself, then Machete abseils out of a hospital window using a grunt's large intestine. Then you kind of work it out. That said, it's not played entirely for laughs either; in the border-town tensions and McLaughlin's anti-immigration rally rantings there's a political point, if one that's a little heavy-handed and reinforced in none too subtle a fashion. Essentially, it's just an insanely enjoyable romp of the guns, girls and glory variety - slick, fast and fantastically funny, yet it's serious enough that you're genuinely rooting for the antihero of Machete throughout.
It's like Kill Bill with more sex and less pretension; it's Oldboy with more laughs and less live octopuses harmed in the making. It's quite comfortably the most fun I've had at the cinema this year, and it's well up there with Inception for the best film.
Rodriguez, Seagal and De Niro are on song, Fahey's a wonderful villain, and cameos from Jessica Alba, Lindsay Lohan and a brilliant turn from Cheech Marin as Machete's priest brother Padre Cortez light up the action wonderfully.
"Please, father - have mercy!"
"God has mercy. I don't!"
This is just an absurdly good cast, and the acting's pitch-perfect, with tongue sufficiently in cheek. However, in a film that's so magnificently over-the-top, it's Danny Trejo who stands out as the protagonist, a straightforward, no-nonsense tio who thinks nothing of scoring with Alba and Rodriguez (which should be entirely wrong, but is somehow watchable) between slicing and dicing his way to vengeance. Actually, for an exploitation movie, the violence isn't too OTT - Machete's efficient at dismissing bad guys, but he's not gratuitous; he only chops them up if he needs to. Which, to be fair, he often does, but still ... there's a great scene with Trejo going to war with a hedge-strimmer.
Robert Rodriguez has a great eye for visuals, and this film is lit up with some brilliant scenes, not least the climactic set-to - whipped together with the spot-on Tex-Mex soundtrack, and this is a delight for the eyes and ears, if not the grey matter. Trejo was born to play this role, and the director revels in exactly this type of film; together, the result's just about perfect. Go see. It's a shame that the two sequels which are trailed at the culmination of the film - Machete Kills! and Machete Kills ... Again! - are merely spoofs, although given the genesis of this wonderful movie, we can live in hope. Granted, maybe the joke would be wearing a bit thin, but as Alba straddles Trejo's motorbike and the pair ride off into the sunset, you're left wanting more. Bring it on.
"We didn't cross the border. The border crossed us!"
Released in the UK this coming Friday (26th of November).