johnlink ranks MACHETE (2010)

By looking over trends in movie titles as you run down the page, you can tell when life gets hectic. Not only do I not get to watch a movie for four or five days, but the titles which do appear tend to weigh much more on the entertaining side of the scale rather than the heavy dramatic side. Regardless, MACHETE is a movie which I had some interest in, much the same way I had interest in EXPENDABLES: Good cast, looked like fun, harmless entertainment.

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I watched MACHETE (2010) on 12.6.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

This film opens up with a grainy-film scene of Machete (Danny Trejo) riding into battle with a drug lord named Torrez (Steven Seagal!). Things don’t go as planned, and then we launch into the opening credits (during which a major plot-point concerning a character is ruined). The entire thing has an ‘old film’ layer put on it so that it appears as though the ‘print’ is old and damaged. The problem with that, on Blu Ray, is that the thing is clearly shot on the highest end digital equipment and effected in post-production. My immediate thought was that I wouldn’t be able to watch this entire thing if it was going to be filled with this sort of false authenticity.

Fortunately, the opening credits end, the movie proper begins, and that silly filter falls away. The action builds slowly at first (after plenty of bloodshed in the opening), and I was very curious about where this film was going. All sorts of fun characters were being introduced including a vigilante (Don Johnson) protecting the border from Mexicans crossing into America. A Texas state senator out to eliminate the immigrant problem (Robert De Niro). A businessman who puts a hit on that same senator (Jeff Fahey),  his right-hand man (BOARDWALK EMPIRE’s Shea Whigham), and his drug-addled daughter (a perfectly cast Lindsay Lohan) . A revolutionary who helps people who have crossed (Michelle Rodriguez). An ICE agent who is on to that revolutionary (Jessica Alba). And, eventually, Machete’s brother, the priest (Cheech Marin). This feels like too many characters in a 105 minute movie, and in fact there are others who get lost, but writer-producer-director Robert Rodriguez banks on the cache of these actors’ pasts to make their roles instantly identifiable.

This is a film which started as a trailer which was made during the Trantino/Rodriguez GRINDHOUSE project. Rodriguez couldn’t let it drop, and so he turned it into a full length film. I love that Danny Trejo gets to be the calm at the center of this storm. After a career of great supporting roles, he finally gets to be ‘the guy’, doing scenes where he is the hero opposite villains like Seagal, DeNiro, and Fahey. He gets love scenes (or implied love scenes) with Rodriguez and Alba and Lohan. It’s all sort of surreal, which works within the atmosphere of the film.

Because, really, this is all style with minimal substance. Sure, this is a tongue-and-cheek look from a Latino director (who technically has a co-director in Ethan Maniquis) about how absurd the entire border war is. This is about how the drug lords and the politicians are making the rules without any care for the individuals caught in the middle. But it isn’t really about all that. It’s really about people shooting each other in the head with shotguns and jumping out of windows while using another human’s intestinal tract as a bungee cord.

And damn if it isn’t fun.

The development of this film is fairly clear. Conceived of at first while working on DEPSERADO, there are multiple connections between the two films. We have a guy who is out for revenge (in a manner directly pulled from the DJANGO spaghetti westerns) who has to fight a drug lord with limitless henchmen. A church plays a major part. A female plays a major part in healing his wounds. Heck, Trejo even has an outfit adorned with throwing knives just like his character in DESPERADO. It’s as if Rodriguez always thought that DESPERADO took itself too seriously. And if you have seen DESPERADO, it is not exactly SOPHIE’S CHOICE.

Does MACHETE go to far sometimes? I don’t think so. It’s established as a fantasy. Perhaps the insanity of it all does prevent itself from serious consideration in the annals of great action films. But I don’t think Rodriguez cares about that. He was out to make the biggest, loudest, bloodiest movie he could. He wanted to make sure both he and the audience had fun.

And he sure manages that.

SCORES

FILM: 5; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 4; BONUS: 1

The bonus is for the casting. It is painful to watch Lohan basically play the public image of herself as a drugged-up and over-sexed princess with plenty of arrogance. But she isn’t the only perfect casting. DeNiro, Trejo, Johnson, Rodriguez… they all get great characters with great moments. Nobody casts movies better than Rodriguez or Tarantino.

5+9+6+4+1=25

FINAL SCORE: 6.25 (but in a movie like this, it is really only the entertainment score (MOVIE) which really matters).

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~ by johnlink00 on December 7, 2012.

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