Notable Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Jeff Fahey
Review: Machete is the reason I was excited for Predators. If Rodriguez even got a smidgen of his influence in there, it might have garnered a little more respect. And this is also why Danny Trejo isn’t simply a side character who should be killed off in every movie (screw you Predators). And finally, this is a glaring example of why Robert Rodriguez himself is the king of modern-day grindhouse. No one understands the concept as well as he does, nor do they project it onto the screen as seamlessly easy as his films do. When I saw the fake trailer (well, then fake) before Planet Terror I laughed but seriously thought “Rodriguez could make an epic film out of this premise and sure as hell could make this instead of Spy Kids 57.” Only a few weeks later rumors circulated as to a feature-length Machete film, and here we are only a few years later being blessed with a movie made a few decades after its style became popular, but with none of the flair missing. Minus the actors used, there is no way to tell Machete was made in 2010.
Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to see Machete for the dramatic storyline. No, Machete simply follows a legendary ex-federale and his quest to clear his name. After he is betrayed by his own bosses and local drug kingpin Torrez (Seagal) and left for dead, Machete ends up in the U.S. as a day laborer. It is here that he picked up by an unnamed man (Fahey) and forced to put a hit on local Senator McLaughlin (De Niro) for $150,000. Again, Machete is set up and it turns out the unnamed man is actually Senator McLaughlin’s campaign aide who set the hit up as a numbers boost only to put the blame on Machete. So not only does Machete want revenge on the criminal Torrez, but now the government agents who also tried to destroy his life. It isn’t so bad though when you have the help of an aspiring Immigration agent (Alba) and a local immigrant ringleader (Rodriguez) as Machete does. It is a story of betrayal, revenge, more betrayal, more revenge, hot women, and one deadly Machete.
I can’t explain any simpler that you will get exactly what you expect from Machete. If you can’t handle gory decapitations, entrails being splattered on walls, eye rolling one liners, or Steven Seagal, this is NOT a movie for you. But for the rest of us that live for a fantastic B-Movie that makes us question reality and laugh our asses off at the audacity of the actions occurring on-screen, RUN to go see Machete. Rodriguez has everything perfect to qualify this movie as the “grindhouse” genre, except the fact that he did it with respectable actors. Visually he defied reality with the violence he produced, which was one of the main reasons grindhouse was introduced. It was all about over the top action. And although Rodriguez delivered, I still felt the movie held back and played it a tiny bit safe. Machete was just a few steps away from being the movie that defies everything that modern-day cinema values. Also, the style in which he shot included crazy quick cuts and questionable angles which was an homage to how awfully the original grindhouse movies were actually made. He even got down to “burning” the film so it looks grainy and cheap. Lastly, none of the actors here will win an Oscar for their performance, which is the way it should be. Again, this is the spirit of the grindhouse film. Emphasis on the ridiculous and over-the-top, ignore the technicalities. And Machete nails it.
Also, you really have to attribute the cast to the reputation of the director. First, a lot of people pop up that can be seen in many of Rodriguez’s other films. Trejo himself pretty much pops up in every single one, playing some type of Mexican hit man. Cheech is another regular in Trejo’s films, usually appearing as a bartender. The Spy Kids tyke (Daryl Sabara) squeaks in as a white boy adopted into a Mexican family but tries to fit in. Nimrod Antal, the bastard behind the Predators debacle, shows up as a bodyguard who I wish suffered a much worse fate. The babysitters from Planet Terror even pop up as the sexy nurses wielding guns. It just seems really down to earth that Rodriguez likes to bring the same people back, almost that he dare I say, cares about the actors! That it’s not just for the pay check, it’s for the love of film-making. Getting back to the rest of the cast though, just wrap your mind around how Rodriguez was able to convince the likes of Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, and OSCAR WINNER ROBERT DE NIRO to be part of a project that is nothing more than an exploitation flick. No real challenges, no groundbreaking stories; just blood, guts, and fun. And without a reputation that convinced these people a film like Machete would be a good career choice, Machete would have just been another script thrown to the side by these multiple respectable actors. Except Linsay Lohan. What else is she honestly doing productively?
Machete proves that there is still life in the grindhouse genre and if done right, it can truly be a pleasure in a world where movies tend to play it safe to appease the public. But no. Robert Rodriguez said “fuck the public” and produced the film he wanted to and the way he wanted to. To any other director, grindhouse would be a genre to avoid at all costs because of its limited underground popularity. But Rodriguez stuck to what he loves (which is something ALL film-makers should do) and it paid off in the end. This grindhouse homage takes a cast to rival any and production that would put original grindhouse films to shame, and shows what talent and passion can create. A kick-ass movie about a machete wielding mexican with a badass attitude and the bloody justice he dispenses on his dastardly victims. Bring on Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again, I’m already waiting.
Final Rating: 8 blood-covered machetes out of 10