The films visuals are purposely scratchy faded marked and at times slightly glitchy to match those of the heyday of grindhouse/exploitation crapola. Now myself I don't really like this era of film and the way it looked, the films beginning credits sequence being a brightly coloured badly composed montage of film stills accompanied by some seriously retro text font and cheesy action music. The whole thing reminded me of my childhood days and those hammy American cop shows like 'Chips' or 'Starsky and Hutch' (take your pick from many). Of course this film is much much more hokey than those shows and is influenced by films before my time but I still shudder at the thought of it, I do remember some darn hokey stuff I can tell you (1977 Spider-Man movie).
So being a crummy sleazy grindhouse action flick you can guess the plot isn't gonna tax your brain. Well you would think that but its actually quite relatable to current affairs both in the UK, Europe and the US. I refer to the various immigration issues flying about these days which has grown stronger over the last few years, especially right now in the US where there are US citizens actively protesting in Texas against immigrants coming in from Central America. Obviously I'm not suggesting that any of the corruption, wall building and assassination attempts seen in the film are happening but the the films basic plot is eerily familiar.
As for the film its exactly what you'd expect and more of what we saw in the parody trailer. Danny Trejo has a big machete and various guns, his mission is to get revenge on the corrupt suit that set him up on an assassination attempt against a corrupt Senator who is tough on immigration. The reason being they want it to look like an illegal Mexican tried to kill the Senator for his tough stance on immigration, thusly giving their cause a boost with the public and the excuse to build a big wall across the Texan border.
Along the way Machete meets up with a few characters that help him. Cheech Marin is a Padre with a mean trigger finger, Michelle Rodriguez (who is cast in the same role every time) plays the tough Latino bitch who also has a mean trigger finger, Alba is a US Customs and Immigration officer with a mean trigger finger and Lindsay Lohan pops up too...with a mean trigger finger. On the baddie side is Savini as a hitman with a mean trigger finger, Don Johnson as a sadistic redneck vigilante border patrol leader and of course Seagal as the big boss who is a dab hand with a katana.
Honesty the plot is highly convoluted (I've confused myself writing this!) and only serves to stuff as many big names in as possible, its like a Mexican/Latino Expendables. I can't really moan about that though as you know right from the outset the film is purposely ludicrous and outrageous. The same can obviously be said for all the action and violence, I found that it gets more absurd as the film gets towards the finale. At first it felt quite gritty and semi realistic to a degree, you know its a parody but you can run with it. But towards the end everything gets way out of hand with awful looking CGI action, explosions and blood everywhere, terrible death acting by the extras, crazy situations, Michelle Rodriguez getting shot in the eye and surviving and the hokiest death scene ever by Seagal. Honesty it actually looked like a something from a blooper reel! funny but..really?
There are some clever moments of parody admittedly. I liked the baddie henchmen who discuss their jobs and what they think of their boss, the fact that one of them is starting to think that the boss is actually a bad guy and whether they are in the right line of work. Plus the fact they actually have injuries from the last fight they had with Machete, they chat about them, then in the end two of them quit before getting killed, finally realising its not worth it.
Its very hard to review really as I know its all deliberate, its been made to look bad and cheesy, hokey acting and silly 'A-Team-esque' scenarios. On one hand I can kinda deal with that but on the other...its just shit! and it gets worse as the film progresses. Its a shame as the film is fun and more of an adult action flick for the most part with blood guts and tits on display. Unfortunately your suspension of disbelief is crushed towards the end, it goes beyond a mockery and morphs into a childish James Bond type of picture. I did quite like the final end credits and voice that announces Machete will return in 'Machete Kills' and 'Machete Kills Again'...nicely retro, nicely done.
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.
Always a master of film technique, going back to the first El Mariachi which was wonderfully filmed at a cost of something like 10 grand, Rodriguez knows how to manipulate a camera and his audience, and while that's readily apparent here, it's his humor (being co-writer) that had me doing some serious belly laughs.
It's interesting, after just reviewing Hopkins' writer/director mess (Slipstream), here we have Rodriguez running the show - being writer/director and musician (his band Chignon provides all the music for the film). The major difference is that Hopkins took himself seriously, while Rodriguez looks right into the camera and says "hey, I know this is a joke, you know this is a joke, and so why not have some fun".
From the opening credits where we see that the film "introduces" Don Johnson, to the opening B film with the film name in huge block letters with a stentorian voice bellowing "Machete!!!!!!!" we know this is going to be a fun ride.
And fun it is - who cares if Steven Segal's Hispanic accent keeps slipping (the same can be said for Johnson's Texas Twang) - that's part of the fun. It's also fun to watch Daniel Trejo just looking so bad ass, using any sharp object to vanquish his foes (in one scene he is surrounded by baddies, cuts into one, pulls out his intestines (an earlier scene had reminded us that intestines are 60 feet long) and uses said intestines as a rope - jumping out a window and swinging to the safety of a lower floor - shades of Spiderman!
Michelle Rodriguez is prominently featured as the leader of the underground railroad that helps get Hispanics across the border. She works from a taco truck and is rumored to be the legendary rebel leader "She" a tongue in cheek nod to Che Rivera. When she shows up at the climactic battle scene jumping out of the back of an ambulance, clad in a leather bikini with gun belt, holding a huge automatic weapon I couldn't help but laugh - what a babe and what a scene (especially with her eye patch since she had earlier been shot in the eye).
Coming into the big battle, the underground rallies at a chop shop, so Machete leads the way, bursting out of the shop in a 64 Impala convertible, following by all kinds of vintage cars all tricked out with big guns attached - and of course being Hispanic, they all have hydraulics, leading to a hilarious scene as they approach the Vigilante compound and start bouncing.
Finally, after vanquishing the vigilantes (nice alliteration, yes?), Machete climbs atop a car and brandishes a huge Machete above his head - with all the Hispanics around him suddenly possessed with machetes that they all raise in tribute - hilarious!
As the final credits role we are told that Machete will return in.... Machete Kills and ..... Machete Kills Again. Gotta love it.
It often trips over it's own plot, not sure why they strived for the level of complexity that they did. Maybe the times call for it? Who knows? All we really needed was the B-movie-exploitation fun which was all there.
Anyway, a relatively satisfying ride in the world of tongue-in-cheek entertainment.
I enjoyed Machete back when it was just a faux trailer. I got excited whe nI heard they were actually gonna do something to it. Of course, I figured it would just be some small affair, probably something straight to DVD. That all changed of course, when news of the film's cast became known, since a film with this many notables (mostly De Niro) meant that it couldn't possibly be anything less than a wide theatrical release.
Expectations were high, and I'm happy to say that this film delivers. It's not quite the epic exploitation masterpiece I was hoping it would be, but it still delivers the goods, and has proved one of the wildest, most entertaining, and bad ass films of recent years. It's a real blast.
It took long enough, but Danny Trejo finally got the lead role in something. It's odd because for a lead, he doesn't talk much. Then again, he doesn't really need to. He's got great presence and is nothing but convincing. It's unlikely that he'll ever get "normal" lead roles, but at the same time, I wouldn't be bothered if he only got to be the lead in stuff like this. The rest of the cast is jsut as awesome (both in general, and with their performances). Don Johnson (complete with an "introducing" credit..lol) and Steven Seagal (!!) make some welcome appearances back to the big screen, even though both (especially Seagal) have seen better days . They do a decent job though, as doe the rest, including (surprisingly) Lohan. Granted, her role isn't that far removed from her real life, but she looks badass dressed as a gun-totin' nun. De Niro's hammy performance in Frankenstein kind of bugged me, and, while he's just as hammy here (if not more so), it's not out of place, and he seems to really be having some fun with it. Unsurprisingly, Rodriguez is a bad ass, but so is Alba. I had forgotten until seeing her here that her career started with her as a bad ass. It's a welcome return, I say.
This movie is over the top, ridiculous, and tons of fun. That's the whole point. You may not like this type of stuff, but you definitely won't be bored, especially with unique touches like a woman hiding a cell phone in a hilariously odd location, and some really wild action setpieces, including a new way to go rapelling.
As great as this is, it left me a bit disappointed. It's starts out with a weathered and scratched print, just like an old 70s grindhouse flick, and that's great, but after the first fe minutes, those touches disappear. I think they should have just gone all out and really made it the exploitation film to end all exploitation films, and kept it weathered and grimy the whole time. Also,