I dare say, it’s been quite a blood fest at the cinema lately. The Expendables and Piranha 3D had quite enough, but if you go and throw Machete in there too, it’s an all out blood fest extravaganza!
The newest film by Robert Rodriguez opened this past weekend here in the States. Originally filmed as a faux-trailer for the Grindhouse films, Rodriguez gathered together an unlikely band of well known actors, to film the full length version the fans cried out for.
While working in Mexico as a Federale, Machete is betrayed by his boss as he’s trying to take down a well known drug lord whose reach extends to the organization that Machete is working for. After his wife and child are murdered, Machete is left for dead. Turning up in Texas a few years later, Machete is working as a day laborer. A man comes to hire him but instead of hiring him for day labor, Machete soon learns that he’s been hired to assassinate Senator McLaughlin. He accepts the job and soon finds himself at the center of another betrayal. Machete then goes on a mission of his own to clear his name and find out the source and reason for the betrayal.
Machete’s story also deals with immigration, illegal border crossings, an immigrant underground, as well as civilian led border patrol. The timing of Machete’s release could be a positive thing or a negative thing considering the illegal immigration issue that is taking place in the States at the moment. Some may focus on a parallel of the films political statement to what’s happening in States, I’m just going to focus on Machete as a film.
The cast of Machete is an interesting mix of new and old. You’d be hard pressed to find a cast list that reads like this one. Tarantino has a knack for reigniting the fire of long forgotten actors so it’s not surprising to see that happen with Rodriguez cast choices as well. Machete stars, in no particular order, Danny Trejo (who is a Rodriguez staple), Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Robert DeNiro oh yeah….and Lindsay Lohan. Having a deep bench cast wise, it’s not unusual for certain roles to suffer. While I would have liked more Cheech Marin and Don Johnson (a scene together would have been great for those Nash Bridges fans) I was happily surprised at the amount of Jeff Fahey it had. He played his role as the dead pan businessman type to the hilt. Each actor fit in nicely with their roles with the exception of Seagal. I had a hard time with him portraying a drug lord that threw in the occasional Spanish word when he talked. However on the flip side of that, the type of film this is calls for outrageous casting and the said cast is all in on the joke. So I’ll give kudos to Seagal for that. He’s a shell of the Seagal that we all know, but it seems he knows it too. I felt that Lindsay Lohan was a complete waste of time even if she did pretty much play herself. I’m still not convinced that she can act and her presence just detracted from everything else that was happening in the film. Basically she irritated me beyond belief whenever she was on screen. Danny Trejo however, was a perfect fit. He just looks like someone you don’t want to meet in a dark alley. The eyes of steel, the set jaw, the tattoos…all of it screams “Danger!” I like Danny Trejo a lot and it was nice to see him front and center for once and not in a supporting role. He carries the film on those broad shoulders and does so very well.
I loved how Rodriguez used the exploitation film style with Machete. Everything from the scratchy, color saturated film style, to the editing and the angles makes this film feel like it should have been released in the 1970′s. Decapitations, ridiculous guns and a new use for intestines all lend themselves to this style as well. And then there is the amount of blood. The blood spray is gratuitous but expected in a film like this. If you don’t like blood, don’t see Machete.
One of the other downfalls the film had, aside from Lohan was it’s running time. Clocking in at 105 minutes, it felt a bit more like 120. There seemed to be big gaps of time between any type of action and during those few dispersed action scenes the film goes a bit stagnant. A film that’s about a guy named Machete shouldn’t have big gaps of non action. It would have served the film much better if they tightened things up and cut about 15 minutes.
In the end, even with the political messages that some will agree with, others won’t, Machete is a film that is at times entertaining, other times not. The style of filming and the action scenes are worth the time, money and effort to see it in the theater but unfortunately the lag time it suffers between those action scenes make it a bit hard to sit still and not notice how long the film seems.
Machete opens in the UK on November 26th.