Archive for September, 2010

A Review of Machete

Hello friends.

Sorry that this blog has been absolutely dead for the past 3 months or so. Although this isn’t an altogether “new” post, this is something to tide you over until I start blogging again. Enjoy this review of Machete I wrote a while back. Hint: It’s pretty good.

The story behind this film is certainly an odd one. Once upon a time, writer-director BFFs Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez made a love letter to those pulpy, tasteless, over-the-top exploitation films they loved watching so much when they were young. That film was called Grindhouse. In an effort to ape the cinema experience provided in the late 70s/early 80s, the film was a double-feature, intercut with advertisements and trailers for fake exploitation films. One of those trailers was called Machete. Starring Danny Trejo (a Rodriguez regular) as an ex-Federale who takes revenge on the people who set him up and left him for dead, it was just about everything you could ask for from an action movie- explosions, suspense, double-crossing, knives, boobies. Then somehow, someway, Rodriguez got to thinking that maybe the trailer would actually work as an honest-to-god action film. So he made a full blown movie based on that 2 1/2 minute trailer. And for some reason, it totally works.

I don’t want to get into spoiler territory here, so I’ll just give the gist of the story. Machete is the story of an illegal immigrant/ex-Federale who takes a seemingly simple assassination job but ends up getting caught in a government conspiracy involving the illegal drug trade in Mexico as well as the immigration issue in the United States. But mostly you need to know that Machete is one bad-ass motherf***er with a sharp attitude and an even sharper blade. He kills things, he chops things off, he shoots things off, he stabs things, he even finds time to sleep with just about every attractive lady in the film (and there are many, including Michelle Rodriguez playing a character who’s a sort of take-off on Che Guevara and Jessica Alba, a U.S. customs agent who more or less kicks ass or looks pretty when needed). Basically it goes without saying with these exploitative action films is that the entire movie just about comes to a halt whenever something story-related (i.e. a scene without an explosion) is going on. The story is a bit too convoluted at times, and Rodriguez never had the knack for dialogue Tarantino has, so characters aren’t as entertainingly loquatious as you’d want them to be. At times, it feels like a scene of pure intense action can’t happen without slow, plodding exposition first. Not to say that the exposition is as unbearable as something like The Last Airbender or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but it’s safe to say that when the action lets up, the film begins to falter.

Ultimately, you’re not going to see this film to see nuanced characters and a rich, envolving tale of intrigue. You’re going for the unadulterated action (and boobies). There’s plenty of that, trust me. The violence in the film is absolutely ridiculous, even by Grindhouse standards. The title of this review alludes to just one scene of intense, absurd gore that I won’t spoil, but just know that there are eye-stabbings, decapitations, limbs chopped off, killer nuns, crucfixations, and much, much more. The best part of all this is that the film has a sense of humor about itself. Rodriguez has never truly taken himself or his work all that seriously, and it shows throughout the entire film. Yes, there are a couple tasteless, groan worthy moments (the crucifixion scene in particular), but then there are scenes where the film (and by extention, the audience) is able to laugh at and with the conventions of the genre. There’s one brilliant scene where Machete is seconds from killing a bad guy, until the goon drops his gun, exclaims “I give up” and walks away. Even the illegal immigration subplot works in a dark humor sort of way (akin to Romero using zombies as metaphors for American society). The actors know that this film isn’t to be taken seriously, which is why everyone from Robert De Niro (as a scumbag, fiercely conservative politician) to Jeff Fahey (as De Niro’s right hand man) to Steven Seagal (who is basically playing a more maniacal version of himself) chew the scenery just about every time they appear on screen. Danny Trejo as our protagonist does a fairly good job killing dudes and sleeping with women, but he’s probably the least interesting character in the entire film. Everyone else is just so ridiculous, so over-the-top that an illegal immigrant with a bigger kill count than Rambo seems less interesting in comparison. Oh and before I forget, yes Lindsay Lohan is in it. Ironically (or not), she’s basically playing a spoiled, attention whore with drug problems who is not afraid to use her assets to get what she wants. Sound like a stretch for her, doesn’t it?

Overall Machete is about as entertaining as a full-length feature based on a 2 1/2 minute fake movie trailer can be. It’s ridiculously, gloriously violent, sexy and profoundly stupid, and it’s not a film for everyone, but it’s everything you can possibly want from an exploitation flick, without that icky feeling you get after watching one.

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