As promised last night on Superfriends, here is my review of Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, the first of TWO Grindhouse-inspired fake trailers-turned-feature-films being released this year. Fair warning, though – this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS (I actually need them this time around in order to get a few points across), so if you have not seen the movie yet and do not wanted to be spoiled, I would suggest NOT CLICKING on the link below…..
Basic Non-Spoiler Plot Summary: If you’ve seen the fake Machete trailer featured in Grindhouse, then you pretty much know the deal – Machete is an ex-Mexican Federale turned immigrant who gets hired to kill a U.S. senator. This is, however, a setup, and Machete gets betrayed and “left for dead” (as the trailer announcer guy puts it). Machete then goes renegade and makes it his mission to get revenge on those who did him wrong – because, after all, “they just FUCKED with the wrong Mexican!”
The Pros (contains SPOILERS): Before I get into Machete itself, I just want to mention briefly how much I admire and adore Grindhouse – it is, to this day, still one of my all-time favorite movies of the modern era, and one of my Top 3 Films of 2007. This is probably why I had such high expectations for Machete – granted, I wasn’t expecting anything Oscar-worthy to be shown to me, but I at least expected to leave the theater with the same joy and satisfaction (as a moviegoer) that I did after seeing Grindhouse. That did not happen, for a number of reasons. But first, I’ll get into what I did like about it. First off, like I mentioned briefly on Superfriends, the WOMEN here – absolutely gorgeous; Michelle Rodriguez I don’t think has EVER been hotter, Jessica Alba is always stunning, even Lindsey Lohan looked “passably attractive” here. There was even a model (played by Mayra Leal) who, like I mentioned last night, shows up naked for the sake of being naked. What’s hilarious about that is that it’s a cocktease – it is the ONLY nudity (other than the inevitable river scene from the trailer) that the film has – none of the leading ladies get naked (which is a disappointment), despite the fact that they all end up fucking Machete anyway (by the way – the “porn music” they played every time Machete hooked up with a chick – PRICELESS!). If The Expendables had had chicks like these in it, I would have no doubt given it a higher rating than I did. Secondly, the action was intense – “balls-to-the-wall” is probably the best phrase to use to describe it. I enjoyed the action sequences here MORE than the ones in The Expendables – Rodriguez used a similar formula that he did for Planet Terror in doing these action sequences, so expect A LOT of blood to be flowing on-screen and in the most GRUESOME ways possible (well, maybe not TOO gruesome – but GRUESOME nonetheless). Next, the ensemble cast did its job; not the best acting by any means, but at least there wasn’t any horrible acting on anybody’s part (not even Lohan), and the cameos were just great (fucking TOM SAVINI!!!). Finally, while I did not like the majority of the deaths of the main villains here (I’ll get to that next in the “Cons” section), the death I really did like was Senator McLaughlin’s (played by Robert DeNiro). I’m not going to get into the WHOLE scene itself, as it would be too long to explain, but I loved it so much because his death scene was the only one that made logical sense in regards to plot – in other words, they gave the Senator McLaughlin character the old “karma is a bitch” treatment (if you’ve already seen Machete, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about – and why that death scene is so fucking AWESOME).
The Cons (contains SPOILERS): I’ve had a while to think about this, because like I mentioned last night, I could be labeling these aspects of the film as “Cons” for the wrong reasons. But before I get into that, let me tell you exactly what these Cons are (and please note, SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW). First off, the entire film just felt completely rushed (and I don’t mean rushed from a production standpoint). The movie just sped on by from one action sequence to the next, giving the audience little time to get to know any of the characters; the only two exceptions being Machete and Senator McLaughlin. Even Steven Segal – the guy set up at the beginning of the film as Machete’s archenemy, did not get any character development whatsoever, and his death scene was probably THE WORST PAYOFF OF A DEATH SCENE EVER (since WHEN, in the climactic battle of an action movie between the main character and the villain, does the villain actually KILL HIMSELF WILLINGLY??). I expected Machete, as he had done to Booth’s (played by Jeff Fahey) henchmen earlier, to hack Steven Segal up into a million pieces, considering he, I don’t know, KILLED HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER!! Instead he just stabs him in the gut and Segal, instead of fighting back, just twists the machete in his gut further and finishes himself off – HORRIBLE. I also didn’t like how Rodriguez didn’t add the “scratched-up” effects into the film (with the exception of the opening credits) as he had done for Planet Terror to really give it that B-movie, grindhouse feel. AND YET, after thinking it over, I have come to the conclusion that YES, Robert Rodriguez DID all of the above (with the exception of leaving out the “scratched-up” look – I still don’t know why that was missing from the rest of the film) ON PURPOSE. It would only make sense for a film coming from the Grindhouse family (a franchise that paid TRIBUTE to the B-movie exploitation films of the ‘70s and ‘80s) to also be doing the same here, and incorporating the same plot devices – which include but are not limited to: little to no character development, rushed storylines, non-stop action (a lot of it hokey/cheesy), excessive blood/gore, and explicit nudity/sexuality.
Conclusion: Having said ALL OF THAT, I still think that, comparing Machete to Planet Terror, Machete would definitely be the inferior film. But now realizing that the Cons that I listed (with the exception of one) have been done on purpose and are all part of the film, I’ve decided to go a little easier on Machete and bump up the original rating I had for it (3/5). Now don’t get me wrong, I never said I HATED this movie – there were just things that bothered me that prevented me from enjoying it to its fullest potential. Now that I know what I know, I would probably benefit from a second viewing of Machete – just so I could iron out the ill-will I had once-and-for-all with my renewed appreciation for it. But bottom line, even before all of this, it was still a GREAT TIME at the movies, and it still is – if you are simply looking for undiluted action, blood, and gore, with some sexy chicks thrown in, THIS IS THE MOVIE FOR YOU. Recommended for Adults and Older Teens.
Final Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5)
Next week, look for reviews of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Last Exorcism, as well as Issue #19 of The Wide World of Sports-Entertainment previewing WWE Night of Champions!
Until then, I’m out!
Review – Machete 
Cinephile extraordinaire, a budding filmmaker, and host of Forced Perspective. A resident of NY/NJ, he spends most of his time looking for new movies to watch and learning the craft of filmmaking. You’ve probably also seen him hanging around Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium at some point. If you see him approach your movie theater, be sure to let him in – he’s the guy in the Yankees cap!