Old 09-06-2010, 12:42 PM
Ethan Maniquis's and Robert Rodriguez's Machete

Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:



Machete (2010)

As you may recall, back in 2007 a little film (little in that sadly hardly anyone went to see it) called "Grindhouse" was released into theaters. The two films featured in this double-feature were homages to B-movies, as were the fake trailers for similar looking films. The opening trailer was for a fun-looking action film from Robert Rodriguez called "Machete," which, fairly soon after making the trailer, was announced as a film that Rodriguez actually intended to make.

The story begins with Machete (Danny Trejo), a Mexican police officer, responding to a call for what appears to be a kidnapping, but is actually a setup in which his family is killed by a drug lord, Torrez (Steven Seagal). The film jumps forward to where Machete is now working as a day-laborer. A mysterious man, Booth (Jeff Fahey), offers Machete the chance to make $150,000 in exchange for killing a US Senator, McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), who has been trying to beef up security along the border to stop illegal immigration.

He reluctantly accepts the offer, but during the assassination attempt, he is betrayed and shot. Now, as a fugitive, he must get help from anyone he can including a border agent, Sartana (Jessica Alba), an immigrant smuggler, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), and his own brother, Padr (Cheech Marin). On top of that, there is the mystery to unravel as to why he was set up while trying to shoot Senator McLaughlin.

Of the four fake trailers, "Machete" was the only one that seemed like it had a thought-out plot, and now Rodriguez has been able to take those small bits of story and smartly weave them into this over-the-top film. The trailer is a good indication of what you're going to get with a film of this type. There's lots of blood, action, and, of course, body parts being cut off with a machete. Basically what we have here is a very silly exploitation film similar to what Rodriguez did with his half of "Grindhouse," "Planet Terror."

When I say "over-the-top," I mean it, especially for certain scenes. One that comes to mind is an escape from a hospital that still has me laughing when I think about it, but I don't want to spoil it for you. It's funny in the sense that we aren't supposed to be taking it seriously at all. This was made to be a completely silly film and is solely meant to entertain.

In that sense, I was reminded of another film that tried to do that recently, "Piranha." That film was pretty silly too and certainly not meant to be taken seriously, but it had the major flaw of taking forever to get going. "Machete" immediately dives right into the action and barely stops to take a breathe until the end credits begin to roll.

Keeping the film moving along swiftly is an interesting cast of supporting characters including Steven Seagal hamming it up as a villain, something I don't recall seeing him do before (the villain part, not the hamming it up). Cheech Marin plays Machete's brother, a kind of hypocritical priest who seems to have no problem with killing people. Even two-time Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro shows up as the senator for a few scenes. All of these familiar faces make this film a bigger delight than it probably would have been otherwise.

There has recently been word that writer/director Eli Roth wants to turn his fake trailer, "Thanksgiving," into a feature film, but given that his last two films were the absolutely awful "Hostel" movies, I'm not too anxious to see what he would do with that. I'd be much more interested in seeing Rob Zombie's incredibly bizarre-looking "Werewolf Women of the SS" become a full-length film, especially if he can really get Nicolas Cage to play Fu Manchu. 3/4 stars.
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