*** (out of 5)
September 3, 2010
Danny Trejo as MACHETE
Robert De Niro as SENATOR MCLAUGHLIN
Jessica Alba as SARTANA
Steven Seagal as TORREZ
Michelle Rodriguez as LUZ
Jeff Fahey as BOOTH
Cheech Marin as PADR
Don Johnson as LT. STILLMAN
Lindsay Lohan as APRIL
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Like many of the few people who were huge fans of the “Grindhouse” collaboration between Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, I loved the fake trailers they squeezed into that double feature. Now, Rodriguez has brought his character of Machete to the big screen in his own feature film.
Danny Trejo stars as the title character, an ex-Federali who is working and living illegally in Texas. He is tapped by a mysterious man who offers him $100,000 to kill Texas State Senator McLaughlin, who is campaigning on a stringent anti-immigrant platform. Soon Machete finds himself framed for an assassination attempt and on the run. Only the help of a beautiful immigration agent and a beautiful taco stand owner/freedom fighter can help Machete survive.
There are a lot of things to love about this movie, especially if you’re a fan of grindhouse-style exploitation flicks. Like “Grindhouse,” the film is distressed (at least in the beginning), and the action violence is over the top of the top. The movie doesn’t take itself seriously and revels in being politically incorrect. Plus, the landscape is riddled with naked ladies, which is always a plus in my book.
The cast is random, yet works well enough. The best performances come from people like Trejo and Jeff Fahey, who aren’t A-list names by any stretch of the imagination. The big-time actors tend to phone in their parts or chew through the scenery a little too much. Then there’s Lindsay Lohan, who should be an expert on what it takes to be coked up and desperate, but she delivers possibly the worst acting performance of her life. But you get to see one of her nipples if you look close enough, so that sort of makes up for it.
But this film is far from flawless, even forgiving many things for the exploitative angle. It’s biggest problem is that it runs about twenty minutes too long. Many of these old grindhouse films ran shy of 90 minutes for budgetary and plot reasons. Here’s where Rodriguez lets his ego get the best of him on one level. I know the guy can bring lots of production value on a small budget, but let’s leave some things on the cutting room floor. By the end of the movie, things are so convoluted that the only thing you can enjoy is the over-the-top violence.
The other big problem with this film is that while it doesn’t take much seriously at all, it seems to really be trying to drive home a political message about the immigration issue facing the nation. Now, I’m all for a national debate about these sort of things, but a crappy, cheesy exploitation flick is not the place to address this. It would be okay if this was just the backdrop of the film, but Rodriguez can’t resist the urge to preach to the audience, who is already in the choir or won’t take any argument seriously coming from film in which Robert De Niro shares the screen with Steven Seagal.
There are a couple other problems, including the use of CGI blood and cheap-looking green screen (which, in keeping with the tradition of the film, should have been red paint and rear projection), but on the whole, “Machete” is a fun ride. It’s like me in a pair of skinny jeans… there’s just a little too much in there to be comfortable.