Director: Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez (2010)Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal
Danny Trejo finally makes leading man as the eponymous Machete. The craggy faced (wrong) Mexican doesn't have it easy though; first Steven Seagal murders his family, then he's set up and thoroughly fucked over by a crooked businessman (Jeff Fahey). What's a man to do but go on a murderous rampage and inspire a little revolution in the process? MACHETE.
Starting out as a little skit on Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse affair, Machete has a lot of promise and a lot of goodwill behind it. Occasionally, the movie even lives up to that. Its pre-credits sequence is wonderful. Machete is set up for the first time on a job that goes horrendously wrong; leading both to his wife being beheaded and himself left for dead. As if that weren't bad enough, it's at the hands of Chubby Era Steven Seagal. Talk about adding insult to injury. Years later, he's eking out a living as a casual labourer in Texas. Jeff Fahey's sleazy businessman seeks Machete out and offers him a lot of money to kill anti-immigrant Congressman McLaughlin (De Niro). Machete accepts, but is betrayed again. Poor Machete. But he ain't gonna take this lying down. They just fucked with the wrong... aw, you know the rest.
Which is all fine and still fun. And then it suddenly gets convoluted and not quite so fun. There's an attempt to make Machete more of your traditional hero sort. He doesn't kill as much as you might expect him to, let alone lopping off heads every five minutes. No, there's a lot of exposition and a silly twist (SPOILER) in which it's revealed that Machete wasn't really going to assassinate the senator, just "shoot him in the throat". Hmmm. There's a cameo from the Crazy Babysitter Twins, who really get on my wick. Michelle Rodriguez is in it too. Despite being slightly less annoying than usual, she's still a pain in the arse. Jessica Alba gets tied up again, poor dear. Oh, and Lindsay Lohan has a threesome with Machete and turns into a nun. As you do.
The casting in Machete is very Robert Rodriguez. Aside from Trejo and his Babysitter Twins, there are also extended cameos from Cheech Martin and Tom Savini. The rest of the casting is delightfully odd. I love Jeff Fahey, De Niro looks like he's having a blast and Steven Seagal... well, he's essentially playing the same character he always plays, only with slightly less flicks of the wrist, a samurai sword and maybe a little less flab than usual? It's good to see the big fella in a big-budget movie again, even if he does suck.
With all of that taken into consideration, it might be a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. There are a lot of characters and personalities in Machete, all of whom distract from the main man himself. There are times when you just want to watch Machete kill something. Instead, you'll have to suffer through breakfast with Lindsay Lohan or Michelle Rodriguez making Jessica Alba coffee.
A lot has been made of Machete's statements on immigration. Having watched the movie, I'm not surprised. Machete is a very unsubtle movie. Which is fine, but I just wanted to watch Danny Trejo kill shit. All of the highlights from the original Grindhouse trailer are there, which is a nice little nod. It is, however, rather tempting for this reviewer to suggest that you might be just as well served... well, watching the trailer instead.
But no, don't. Because when Machete is good, it's very good. It tends to get too burdened with its own issues and heaving cast, but there are numerous gory fight scenes, a tremendous amount of T&A, Cheech Martin with a shotgun and Steven Seagal duelling Danny Trejo with a samurai sword. Who hasn't been waiting their whole life to see that?
On a side note, I watched the Blu-Ray edition of Machete on a rather sizeable HDTV. Danny Trejo's face was fucking made for High Definition. Craggy is not the word. For about ten minutes, I thought I was watching a documentary about Mars.