Let me start by saying that “exploitation” is by far my favorite genre of film, I’m sure you’ve heard this term being thrown around recently; especially since the release of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s double feature Grindhouse back in 2007. Even my film Kill Day was homage to that era of film making and raised a lot of concern due to the subject matter, but that’s exactly the point of these types of films. If you are unaware or ill-informed on the definition of “exploitation” is; let me set things straight.
During the 60’s and 70’s the MPAA was trying to enforce and preserve a “clean” Hollywood, in response; film makers started producing outside studios. This resulted in movies being made that exploited specific aspects and advertised as such; i.e. sex, violence, drugs, nudity and over the top action. It was gritty, realistic and non apologetic as religious groups and politicians formed hatred towards this method. This is what makes this genre of film so spectacular, because it is politically incorrect and thoroughly entertaining.
When Grindhouse was released it contained four fake trailers in the same tradition, “Machete” played before Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and in between was Thanksgiving (Dir. Eli Roth), Don’t (Dir. Edgar Wright) and Werewolf Women of the SS (Dir. Rob Zombie). Talks are that each of these fake trailers is being planned for a theatrical treatment, lucky for us; we get Machete. A blood-soaked, action packed thrill ride that echoes that gritty era of entertainment.
The story opens with Machete (Danny Trejo) getting double crossed which results in his wife and daughter getting murdered by Torrez (Steven Seagal); three years pass when we find Machete working as a day laborer. After getting an offer from Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate Senator MacLaughlin (Robert De Niro); he gets set up and double crossed once again. I’ll refrain from ruining everything and tell you that this is when the s*** hits the fan, Machete goes on a rampage of revenge; let the carnage ensue.
I am thrilled that Danny Trejo gets his own movie (and possibly series) because he deserves it; usually he plays some sort of supporting character. I can tell by watching the movie that he is absolutely enjoying every minute and so was the audience; at 66 he is still one bad mother and slips into this role perfectly. He doesn’t have many lines, but does he need them? Trejo just needs to look pissed and slice some people up, which he accomplishes in stride.
The rest of the supporting cast is great, most surprising is Steven Seagal who plays his first villainous role and in his first theatrical film in 8 years. He plays a great counter to Trejo with his menacing demeanor. The acting is obviously exaggerated (since it is supposed to be) and cheesy, that’s why it is so great that these actors are stepping out of their comfort zones and trying something new. Jeff Fahey gets the most screen time beside Trejo and rightfully so, he is fantastic as the manipulative mastermind. He also adds some great depth and emotion to an otherwise undeveloped character.
Lindsay Lohan is decent, despite the fact that she has 10 minutes of actual screen time. She does make an impression since she goes topless and hints at maybe a reoccurring character in the possible sequels. Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Robert De Niro are all great in supporting roles. No character feels worn out and over used (or underused), which is fine since we’re here to see Machete.
Tom Savini even has a sweet role as an assassin for hire, it’s great to see him in another Rodriguez film (I loved him as Sex Machine, in From Dusk Till Dawn). We also get a hefty load of humor, especially from Cheech Marin as the priest, that along with great one liners makes for some memorable good times.
The look of the film is grainy and stylized, much like the trailer it is based on. Digital scratches and grain add to that effect and make the print look worn and aged, I love that. Rodriguez has a certain style with the way he shoots action and high contrast colors, not a bad thing since I love every one of his movies. Rodriguez definitely knows this genre of film and uses that to his full potential, he also composes his own music and develops his own visual effects; which give each of his films a specific look and feel that is unmistakable and separates him from all other directors.
As far as action is concerned; there are two types, hard hitting, realistic action Ala The Bourne Ultimatum or an over the top gore fest. To the point where it stops being high impact and becomes slightly comical, Machete falls into the latter. It starts out very real but eventually becomes so over the top that it makes you laugh and at the point the feel of the film takes shape. Dozens of decapitations, limbs hacked off, missile being shot from cars, intestines being used as a grappling hook; I loved every minute of it. It all accumulates to a samurai sword vs. giant machete showdown between Machete and Torrez. Never in a hundred years would I have guessed that Steven Seagal and Danny Trejo would duke it out, spectacular stuff.
I am actually surprised (and happy) to see a niche film like this go mainstream, the subject matter alone is enough to send this straight to DVD. I’m glad it didn’t because this movie is best watched with a group of people, just enjoying the ride. Our theater was erupting with laughter and cheering as we watched Machete tear through his enemies.
Unfortunately the movie is tad long and drags a smidgen into the second act, but all is forgiven in the long run. Machete is a crowd pleasing film that shouldn’t be taken too seriously and should be watched late night with a group of friends. We even get a teaser for the “supposed” sequels “Machete Kills” and “Machete Kills Again”; and if loose talk becomes reality we should see those soon. Hopefully. 9/10