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Film Review Machete

Posted on by sam


Director: Robert Rodriguez (2010)

Director Josh Fowler waited three years for Machete. I did too, but despite my best hopes I’m still nowhere nearer solving the riddle that is a Rodriguez film. Are they over-the-top, ego driven, indulgent guff or exhilarating break neck, balls to the wall, landmark thrillers? Or do they tread a deliberate middle ground? Well unlike Planet Terror (which had both feet firmly on the side of guff) there are some genuinely great moments in Machete, it’s still not Dusk Till Dawn or the Mariachi Trilogy (and even they piss me off at points) but it’s not bad. Apologies now because this is gonna get pretty disjointed as a review. I’m dividing into three, the good, the bad and the Robby. To start I’m going with Bad cause I want to get my negativity out the way early.

Right well first off, I love Danny Trejo, he’s a genuine badass whose lived a hell of a badass life, and yet, despite abseiling using a guy’s intestine, seducing Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez, having a mother/daughter threesome and walking around with a knife that even Crocodile Dundee couldn’t mock, in Machete, he’s, well he’s a complete and utter pussy! He’s meant to be a badass Mexican federale, trained to kill in every way imaginable , one of the most dangerous men on the planet, but he spends the first half of the film questioning nothing he’s told while being tricked and betrayed by everyone and the second half catching up on events that have already happened. He constantly gets injured, barely kills anyone and only seems to ever fight when the bad guys find him. This would work in a film where the lead is meant to be the unwilling anti-hero (See Tombstone), but from the off we see Machete trying to be a hero. And yet the first time we see him fight he loses a wife, and then he has a street brawl where all he does is avoid three punches then walk away. It has to be mentioned that somehow avoiding these three punches convinced a CIA agent to hire him as a sniper despite having no clue who he actually was, so it would appear Machete at least avoid punches expressively.

Secondly, Lindsay Lohan, she’s an interesting case study in how fame and money can really fuck up the happiness thing, and can actually act, but in Machete she plays this bimbo drug addict who goes through one of the most inane, uninteresting character developments since Edward Furlong tried playing The Crow. I have no idea why she’s in this film, she barely gets any lines, sort of looks like she’s melting and detracts from the story in any scene she’s in. You get to see boobage but that’s about all she’s good for.

Thirdly, random god damn Rodriguez crap; There’s a lot of inspired stuff in Rodriguez films (penis gun, Tarantino being killed, Johnny Depp’s fake arm) but every bit of inspiration seems to be accompanied by an equivalent moment of stupidity (Evolution of stripper to vampire, Tarantino as a tough guy, Planet Terror). Machete is full of examples of this, the worst I can find being a red neck running under a bouncing low rider that roars like a dinosaur. It’d be unfair to just make a list but believe me there’s tons of crap in here.

Right, this is a hell of a good story, it covers issues that America is dealing with today, and doesn’t just piss on them. Bad guys and good guys are all given ample time to explain their motivation and none of it is massively clear cut. (with the exception of Steven Segal who doesn’t need motivation, he’s Steven Segal). After Planet Terror I worried Rodriguez had lost something of his old self, but in Machete he proves he can handle a multi-strand story, produce (mostly) convincing characters and tie up his plot nicely and it has to be said, pretty satisfyingly.

Secondly, this film has some of the best villains I’ve seen in an action film for years. We get politicians, crooks, businessmen, drug peddlers and corrupt sheriffs all with different motivations and aspirations trying to kill Machete while competing with each other. It’s all a murky game of politics, the only exception once again being Steven Segal, who doesn’t need politics, because he’s Steven Segal. The most interesting scenes come from the bad guys interacting with each other.

Thirdly, this film is fucking hot. Rodriguez is gorgeous and gets to be femme fatale, likewise Jessica Alba gets to play an intelligent female character which works nicely to offset the Lohan stuff (Rodriguez is a directing advert for the law of equivalents!) There are also some nurses, nuns and secretaries, all of which are ridiculously sexy. Maybe this shouldn’t be so much a Good as a Robby but it helped my enjoyment.

Finally, from the visual viewpoint, Rodriguez has always been a craftsman. I don’t dispute Planet Terror looks great, it’s just that it’s a shit pointless story with shit pointless characters and shit pointless dialogue…………………… oh and shit pointless music. Thankfully as Machete isn’t quite so shit and pointless and the plot’s pretty good the visuals accentuate everything. The action sequences look awesome, the characters all look awesome, the locations are all expansive and there’s plenty of Josh Fowler esque depth to help everything move along.

Theres a number of names that spring to mind as directors who are known for only making the films they want, and Rodriguez is definitely in that list, but is this always a good thing? Why does a mass brawl at the end need rocket firing low-riders that simulate a dinosaur attack? Why does Machete have to only escape because the ‘professional’ bad guys forgot to frisk him instead of just using his badass skillset? Why does Lindsay Lohan have to simulate a heroin addiction in the beginning if the inference is she’s addicted but going clean, then why for the rest of the film is there no withdrawal? There are tons of questions like that which Machete throws up. And it’s why I find Rodriguez so fractious, he throws so much stuff into his films, that when it works it’s an engaging ride. When it doesn’t, well then it just comes across as cheap and tacky. There are some genuinely fantastic moments where Rodriguez does his own thing and it works (Steven Segal at the end is awesome) but there’s also plenty of stuff that doesn’t, and I just wish that he’d occasionally slow down and just say t himself, ‘you know what, that may not make sense, I better leave it out’.

Written By Sam ‘One day I too will have a machine gun leg, then you’ll all pay’ McKinstrie