DIR: Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez • WRI: Robert Rodriguez, Álvaro Rodríguez • PRO: Elizabeth Avellan, Robert Rodriguez, Rick Schwartz • DOP: Peter Jimmy Lindsey • ED: Rebecca Rodriguez, Robert Rodriguez • DES: Christopher Stull • CAST: Danny Trejo, Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba
Rodriguez’ and Tarantino’s double-hitting Grindhouse experiment was a disappointing non-event, hitting European screens devoid of double-bill, fake trailers, and bereft of that classic B-movie shlock-factor that had enticed critical salivation. Of the two, it was Rodriguez’ Planet Terror that most beguiled, following the old-style formula with zeal. It celebrated hammy acting, gory special effects, buckets of blood, and that certain disregard for moviemaking practices that can only be achieved by one who understands the process completely. Machete is the full-length feature result of the most popular of Rodriguez’ fake trailers attached to his first B-movie venture, and builds on Planet Terror’s beginnings to create a masterpiece of shlock, and a new sub-genre of kicks: the Mexploitation movie.
Much has been made of the politics in the film, with a specially-made teaser trailer released on Ain’t it Cool News condemning the recent Arizonian immigration laws. So, yes, politics are there in the movie, but buried beneath layers of violence, gore, and good old-fashioned revenge-killing nonsense. It follows the Montessori school of teaching: if they’re having fun, they won’t even know they’re learning! Rodriguez is beautifully positioned to co-create a movie of this sort – his style has always been a compendium of quick shots, action sequences, fast edits, and an overarching sense of humour. Being of Mexican heritage, and highly supportive of many projects in Texan/Mexican relations, he is also best placed to bring together a wonderfully over-the-top hyperbolic expansion of the immigration issue in America today.
Machete follows the trials and tribulations of the titular federale turned renegade, played by Danny Trejo, who illegally enters America following the murder of his wife and daughter at the hands of a Mexican drug lord Torrez, played by the king of overacting, Steven Seagal. Machete is tricked into an assassination attempt on the immigrant-hunting Senator McLaughlin, (the magnificent Robert de Niro) by Jim Fahy’s spindoctoring psychopath, Michael Booth. After a series of double-crosses, he begins a campaign of retribution and sexual encounters (often at the same time), crossing paths with Michelle Rodriguez’ freedom fighter, Lindsay Lohan’s salacious malcontent, Jessica Alba’s immigration officer and Cheech Marin’s homicidal Padre. It’s a recipe for fun, madness and shlock-indulgence.
Perhaps more than anything, Machete can be described as a guilty pleasure. We can appreciate magnificent storytelling, breathtaking cinematography, nuanced acting, devastatingly impressive 3D, and feather-light direction – but it’s best to do so with other movies. If you would like to see Robert de Niro hunting immigrants with a rifle along the Mexican border, Danny Trejo kicking ass and taking names from Mexico to Arizona, Jessica Alba simultaneously enforcing and breaking the law, and Linsday Lohan’s acting ‘skill’ finally finding a place, then this is the movie for you.
Machete is not sophisticated or complicated – it is a return to action filmmaking at its primitive modern inception, when vicarious pleasure could be drawn from high-octane fighting, ridiculously gory death scenes, nonsensical storytelling, over-acted and over-written dialogue, and most of all, lots and lots of violence. For best results, catch it at a cinema packed with people – cheer at the screen, boo the baddies, wolf-whistle the sex scenes, laugh at the cheesy music, and cover your eyes at the copious amounts of machete-induced limb removals. And when it’s all over, joyously celebrate the possibility of Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again!
Rated 18 (see IFCO website for details)
Machete is released on 26th November 2010