Machete, Rodriguez’s first (with the promise of two sequels!) official foray into the sub-genre “Mexploitation” arrives at a politically relevant time as Arizona’s immigration climate is splashed all over the news. Still, the overall tongue-in-cheek tone of the film suggests coincidence, as Machete is the first of several faux trailers from 2007’s Grindhouse to be made into a feature-length. Reportedly, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is on the way.
The “plot” is not the most suitable term here, as the original trailer gave most of what could be considered plot away 3 years ago. What remains is a series of some truly outrageous scenes loosely propelled by a barely-there narrative. The film is peppered with conventional clichés played for laughs: double-crossing, political cover-up, underground revolution etc.
Boasting a truly eclectic cast like virtually all of Rodriguez’s non-family films, Machete is no different, chock full of more cameos than actual characterization. Most players here are Rodriguez veterans and Danny Trejo as the titular Machete is in fine form, considering it is his first leading performance, striking just the right notes of machismo and winking at the audience (“Machete don’t text”). DeNiro too seems to be having a grand time, as a corrupt senator who takes a hard line stance on immigration, in a perverse blend of Max Cady and Bush II. Rodriguez in his second film (after 2005’s Sin City) with Jessica Alba, again fails to evoke a decent performance from her; what is supposed to be a ‘rousing’ scene delivering a speech unifying day-laborers comes across as amateurish. Seagal, despite his legal woes during filming, checks his troubles at the door having a blast with his drug lord character, Torres sporting a goofy half-smile throughout. It’s hard to see what the fuss is surrounding Lindsay Lohan’s supposed ‘comeback’ vehicle; she’s not bad per se, but with barely has any screen time, let alone lines, she just doesn’t register much of a presence. Michelle Rodriguez’s limited range continues as she hones her scowling—er, acting abilities; the rest of the supporting cast (Fahey, Marin, Johnson etc.) shine in smaller doses.
On a special note, as great as Tom Savini is playing Osiris the hitman-for-hire, his true talents behind the camera as a wonderfully graphic make-up artist that were the highlights of Friday the 13th Part IV and Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead are nowhere to be found, eschewed in favor of CG splatter that dominates much of the film and industry in general today. Still, as Rodriguez alum goes, no one is having a better time than the former Sex Machine.
FINAL GRADE: B
TRR Review by Jacob Aquino