Friday, February 11, 2011

Review: Wam! Bam! Thank You "Machete"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 14 (of 2011) by Leroy Douresseaux

Machete (2010)
Running time: 105 minutes (1 hour, 45 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong bloody violence throughout, language, some sexual content and nudity
DIRECTORS: Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez
WRITERS: Robert Rodriguez and Álvaro Rodríguez
PRODUCERS: Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, and Rick Schwartz
EDITORS: Rebecca Rodriguez and Robert Rodriguez


Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Shea Whigham, Lindsay Lohan, Daryl Sabara, Gilbert Trejo, and Tom Savini

Robert Rodriguez’s recent hell-raising flick, Machete, first hit the screen as a fake trailer in the 2007 Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino double feature, Grindhouse. Part tongue-in-cheek action comedy and part exploitation movie, Machete offers deranged fun that includes everything from dismemberment to a mini-race war.

The film focuses on Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo), a former Mexican Federale turned illegal immigrant. Three years after the powerful drug lord, Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal) killed his wife and daughter, Machete roams Texas looking for work. A shady businessman named Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) offers Machete $150,000 to assassinate corrupt Texas State Senator John McLaughlin (Robert De Niro). After he is double-crossed, Machete joins forces with immigration agent Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) to take down McLaughlin and a far-ranging conspiracy that includes anti-immigration racists and Machete’s old nemesis, Torrez. Luckily, Machete and Rivera find help in the form of Machete’s brother, the gun-wielding priest, Padre (Cheech Marin), and the taco-truck lady, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez).

I enjoy Robert Rodriguez’s films so very much, and although he has a co-director, Ethan Maniquis, for this film, Machete is true to the spirit of mayhem inherent in movies produced by Troublemaker Studios, Rodriguez’s production company. Machete does seem a bit long, and the narrative is occasionally clunky, but the action sequences have a seamless quality that gives the violence maxim impact upon the viewer.

The cinematic art of beheading, dismemberment, gouging, puncturing, and bladed-weapon-thrusting have rarely looked so good (obviously thanks to computer effects enhancement). Those of us who like that sort of thing will howl with pleasure. The terrific gunfights and pitched gun battles are the giant, juicy, succulent cherry on top of this hack-and-slash fun.

As well-made as this film is from creative and technical points of view, the cast is what assures that Machete manages not to take itself seriously, but also still work as an over-the-top action movie. Of course, Robert De Niro is good; in fact, his spot-on creation of the opportunistic, chauvinistic Senator McLaughlin is gold for this movie. Steve Seagal, Jeff Fahey, and Don Johnson were all, at one point in their careers, B-movie action stars, and they deliver some of their best action flick work here, especially Johnson. The girls are all good here, but Lindsay Lohan effortlessly outshines Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez in a much smaller role.

Machete ultimately relies on Danny Trejo. Seemingly hewn from granite (sans the pretty boy looks), Trejo is an action star with the soul of a thespian. As good as this movie is, there actually isn’t enough of him on screen. Trejo has palatable film presence, and he makes Machete not just a good action movie, but also a good movie, regardless of genre.

7 of 10

Friday, February 11, 2011


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