Machete * * * 1/2

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Directors: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis.
Screenplay: Robert Rodriguez, Alvaro Rodriguez.
Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan, Shea Whigham, Daryl Sabara, Tom Savini, Gilbert Trejo, Billy Blair, Nimrod Antal, James Parks, Stacy Keach.

In 1997, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released their Grindhouse double bill which consisted of “Death Proof” and “Planet Terror” respectively. They also included a series of trailers beforehand. Of course, these trailers were fictional works but there at least two, so far, that have been made into feature films and director’s Eli Roth and Edgar Wright have expressed interest in adapting their trailers in the future also. One that has already reached the screens is Jason Eisener’s “Hobo With A Shotgun” with Rutger Hauer and the other is this unashamed, violent gore-fest from Rodriguez.

Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) is a former Mexican Federale who is set-up by his corrupt bosses, resulting in the death of his wife and child. He manages to escape death himself and heads over the border to the United States, vowing revenge on those that wronged him. Not before long though, Machete is involved in a failed assassination attempt on US senator John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) and again finds himself on the run. It would seem that both betrayals are linked and Machete will stop at nothing to get to those involved.

With a highly stylistic and candid Grindhouse opening that’s nothing less than impressive, it’s apparent very early on what you’re letting yourself in for here. This is not a film that will demand very much from you, other than checking your brain at border control beforehand. I’m surprised that I actually went with this, as I often find Rodriguez’s stuff to be very self-indulgent. This happens to be more of the same and shares Rodriguez’s propensity for some preposterous action scenes. That being said though, it’s still quite a lot of fun. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is and benefits from a great cast of deliciously nasty characters, spouting some choice moments of dialogue. A bit like Tarantino, Rodriguez seems to be able to command a plethora of acting talents and again like Tarantino, gives familiar actors – that have fallen on harder times – another shot onscreen. In this case, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey and (amazingly) Steven Seagal get interesting characters to play. It’s also fun to see Danny Trejo in a rare leading role and the underrated – but fast rising – Shea Wigham also makes a welcome appearance. The biggest disappointed (as it often is these days) is a criminally underused DeNiro. All in all though, it’s the cast that play a big part in the enjoyment of this cliche ridden homage to 70’s exploitation flicks where it also can’t resist throwing in a satirical commentary on US immigration policy. Rodriguez’s style is, without doubt, an acquired taste and one that I admittedly don’t always have but if you’re a fan of his films then this should go down nicely.

Not a lot can be said about a film that is ultimately about showcasing the many different ways a person can perish at the mercy of a machete. You can either accept the premise and run with it or you can avoid it completely. Either decision would be entirely understandable, as this is a film that will only work on a complete suspension of disbelief.

Mark Walker.

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26 Responses to “Machete * * * 1/2”

  1. This was a movie that I smile that and then moved on. By that I mean it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t something that just blew me away either. But as you mentioned it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. I always take that into account. Solid review bro.

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    • Thank you very much brother. I feel the same as you. It’s not groundbreaking cinema or anything but it’s enjoyable enough if you give yourself over to it. I normally don’t like Rodriguez (except for Sin City which I thought was a near masterpiece) but I was pleasantly surprised with Machete.

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  2. I know this one plays as just another genre film by Rodriguez. However, I do believe it’s more subversive and clever than most credited the Troublemaker Studios founder for. Listen to the characters’ dialogue (chiefly, Jeff Fahey’s) about the North American illegal immigration issue in the film (an especially divisive one, particularly in a U.S. presidential election year like this one). It describes the matter, and its inherent contradictions, shrewdly and with surprising depth. And probably, in the only way it could (without movie viewers’ pre-judgement), by masking it all around an gory, action movie. Good look at this, Mark.

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    • Thanks michael and that’s a great comment. I often wondered why DeNiro was involved and would have chosen to play such a right wing politician when he’s a liberal at heart and that alone spelled it out for me. Him and Rodriguez, of course, had a good stab at the American policies. It’s often baffled me why America is so stringent on their immigration control when, in fact, the whole country is full of immigrants. I don’t say that to upset my US friends but it happens to be true.

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    • Added to which Michael, you make a fine point there in the film being masked as a gory action movie in order to deliver a political message. In all honesty, I never gave Rodriguez that much credit or level of intelligence (if I’m brutally honest) but your point has made me think again. I knew he was having a dig at it but I now wonder to what extent was that dig. Hmmm! I must ponder some more 😉

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  3. The fake trailers that ran during ‘Grindhouse’ were an absolute blast and still to this day seeing ‘Grindhouse’ was one of the most fun experiences I’ve had in a theater. I enjoyed Machete but I wanted it to be better, I’m looking forward to the sequel as they’ve pulled together another pretty kick ass cast.

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    • Yeah, I actually enjoyed Grindhouse as well Ryan.They weren’t perfect by any manner of means but still quite entertaining. I liked Machete also and I’ll definitely check out the sequel. Thanks man.

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  4. I can’t stand Eli Roth as an actor but he HAS to make THANKSGIVING!!! Machete was pretty good and I look forward to Machete Kills. Good work Mark!!

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    • Cheers bro. Yeah, not keen on Eli Roth as an actor either. He was absolutely dreadful in Inglorious Basterds but I’d be interested in seeing all the fake trailers done as features.

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  5. Good review Mark. I had a great time with this flick and just made me realize why Rodriguez is an awesome director that should stick closer to this type of material, rather than the Spy Kids movies.

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  6. I had no idea DeNiro is in this one Mark, I’m sure his presence here makes you want to see the film more 🙂 I’m not a fan of Rodriguez’s work though, so I think this is a skip for me.

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    • Yeah, if truth be told, it was DeNiro that drew me to this in the first place. I’m on a mission to get through as many of his films as possible but sadly, he wasn’t the biggest thing about this.

      Like you, I’m not overly keen on Rodriguez but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. If you’re not a fan then I’d avoid Ruth. I completely understand your reasons.

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  7. I was hugely surprised by this one. I went in with almost no expectation of it being good and left really enjoying it. Nice review!

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  8. I missed this one. I heard bad things and avoided, but now I see it may be actually OK!! Nice review matey

    Hobo has gotta be better than this one though right?

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  9. filmfellahenry Says:

    A pretty fair review methinks. I enjoyed the film, but like you was crucially aware of its limitations: there’s only so far you can go with Danny trejo as your protagonist. And i agree that deniro was wasted: he’s chosen some very random roles in the past decade (stardust being my most hated) and few of them have been performances of hw calibre that id expect

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    • It was good for what it was Henry and I’d still give the sequel a go. As for DeNiro, you’re spot on. His choices have been a little strange but then I think he’s just enjoying himself now, trying out as many different things as he can by the looks if it. I’m always still drawn to his films in the hope that we’ll see the old master deliver again.

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  10. Great review, Mark. I think Rodriguez is hit (Sin City, Planet Terror) and miss (most everything else) but I’m thinkin I might like this one.

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    • Thanks Fernando. I love Sin City, it’s by far his best film. Planet Terror was okay but if you liked that then there is a good chance you’ll like Machete. It’s a decent movie and I’m normally a bit critical of Rodriguez.

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  11. LOVE this movie (and Hobo with a Shotgun) but I’m also a big fan of exploitation flicks.

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