Robert Rodriguez has certainly come a long way since selling some of his blood to help finance El Mariachi, his energetic and impressive debut but in many ways he’s also not moved forward at all. Many will see that as a bad thing but I don’t. From the first moment that he appeared on the movie scene to this day it seems as if Rodriguez has had one, simple aim: to entertain movie audiences. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Machete is, as many people are already aware, a movie developed and made thanks to the positive reaction the fake trailer featured in Grindhouse received and for those, like myself, who wanted the final result to be as deliriously entertaining as that trailer made things appear to be . . . . . . . . . . you will not be disappointed.
Danny Trejo plays the titular character (a character he also played, albeit in a slightly altered characterisation, in the Spy Kids series) and is superb as the lean, mean, killing machine who can chop off a half dozen heads, make out with a beautiful woman and jump out of a window holding onto someone’s intestines without batting an eyelid. If this movie was all Trejo all the time then that would be good enough for me but there’s a mixed bag around him, full of treats.
Robert De Niro joins in the fun, as a senator who is using his tough stance on illegal immigration to get elected, and Jeff Fahey continues to be brilliant for Rodriguez after his scene-stealing turn in Planet Terror. Then we get Cheech Marin as a padre who doesn’t have the mercy that god has, Don Johnson as a gun-happy leader of border patrols and Steven Seagal doing his best work in . . . . . . . well . . . perhaps his best work ever. There’s also a fun role for Daryl Sabara and a great bit of screentime for Tom Savini.
As for the ladies, we have Jessica Alba, being damn hot if not all that convincing in her role as an immigration and customs enforcement officer, and Michelle Rodriguez, who I dislike but who does okay here (I suppose), playing two women trying to do the right thing in very different ways. Lindsay Lohan is a strung-out wild child. Stop sniggering, that’s her character and she’s very good onscreen, especially when she gets her hands on a habit and a big gun (as you may have already seen in some of the great character-specific posters). Throw in The Crazy Babysitter Twins as a pair of nurses and you have an enjoyably eclectic representation of women to balance out the testosterone.
The plot itself, about Machete being set up by people who blackmail him into assassinating an important political figure, is simply an excuse to drag the audience alongside a character who’s too cool and too enjoyable for any mainstream movie grounded anywhere near reality. The film is over the top in every way but that’s okay because Machete, the character, IS over the top and if you enjoy his company then you enjoy everything that comes along with it.
Rodriguez directs and writes (well, there’s a co-director in the shape of Ethan Maniquis and a co-writer in the shape of cousin Alvaro Rodriguez) his usual mix of humour, violence and supercool moments and does so with his usual success. This isn’t going to win over any detractors but it should definitely keep fans well pleased.
The only two flaws are the way in which the obvious social commentary (about the immigration laws and the way in which things are handled) just feels as if it doesn’t belong here and the ending that proves to be rather an anti-climax after all of the madness that’s come beforehand. Still, most of the movie is insanely entertaining and deserves to be cherished by those who were won over by that “fake” trailer (and you’ll also be pleased to know that most of those trailer “money shots” appear in the finished movie).
DIRECTOR: ROBERT RODRIGUEZ/ETHAN MANIQUIS
CAST: DANNY TREJO, ROBERT DE NIRO, JEFF FAHEY, JESSICA ALBA, MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, STEVEN SEAGAL, LINDSAY LOHAN, CHEECH MARIN, DON JOHNSON
RUNTIME: 105 MINS APPROX