More than any other movie this year, I’ve been looking forward to seeing Machete like a kid looks forward to the mountain of presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Ever since I first saw the fake trailer in the middle of Planet Terror and Death Proof, I’ve been dreaming of the moment that Machete made it to the big screen for real. And now that it’s here, I’m not disappointed in the least. Machete is easily my favorite movie of this summer, with one of the most unique and memorable protagonists that Hollywood’s seen in a long time.
To preface, not everyone has been as positive about Machete. It’s gotten mostly good reviews and it snagged the coveted number one spot at the box office, even though it was sort of slow Labor Day weekend. And Machete isn’t perfect, but for what it is and what it set out to achieve, it’s pretty damn close.
If you’ve seen the trailer that the film was based on, or the subsequent theatrical trailers, you know what Machete is about. Machete (Danny Trejo) is an ex Mexican federal agent or “federale” whose insane tactics and unwillingness to be bribed or coerced have left him with a lot of enemies. The films opens with an explosive, gory and at times hilarious scene in which Machete, on a mission to rescue a woman from the clutches of drug dealers, defies his superior’s orders to play it saw and instead drives straight through the front door of the drug dealer’s hideout, machetes drawn, in an awesome display of going it alone badassery. Unfortunately for him, it was nothing but a setup by the evil drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal). Machete watches as his wife and daughter are brutally murdered and he’s left for dead in the burning building.
Yes, Steven Seagal plays a Mexican drug lord. A Mexican drug lord with a penchant for samurai swords and sexy Asian girls.
Five years later, now in the US and working as an unknown day laborer in Texas, Machete is drawn into an even more sinister plot when he’s approached my a wealthy, mysterious man named Booth (Jeff Fahey) who offers Machete $150,000 to assassinate one Senator McLaughlin (Robert Deniro) after seeing Machete make quick work of another man in an alley brawl. Machete initially refuses, but Booth gives him no choice and so Machete shows up at the date and time agreed upon, but is once again double-crossed, leaving him no choice but to go on a killing rampage of revenge to find out who’s behind it all. HELL YEAH. THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.
One of the main complaints that I’ve heard about Machete is that its unevenly paced and doesn’t have quite as much action as some have expected. While it is true that after the opening scene the movie slows down for a bit in order to make room for some helpful exposition, I cant really count this as a fault against the film, since the thing as a whole is a brilliant and spot-on parody and homage to the cheesy, gritty B-grade action film and things like the pacing of the movie are part of that. Even if at times, the movie sort of feels like it’s sort of cobbled together to get from one sequence from the original fake trailer to another, it’s something that works for this film and this film alone.
My only real complaint with the movie is not that it isn’t violent enough, because it’s plenty violent and bloody. My complaint is that I would have liked it if Rodriguez had left in all the fake film deterioration, missing frames and other shitty movie touches both from Planet Terror and the original Machete fake movie trailer.
Okay, so that’s not my only complaint. Okay, this isn’t as much of a complaint, but I thought it was lame the extent that Lindsay Lohan went through not to show nipple in the many scenes in the movie that she was naked. Like it was going to taint her career or something. Eh, she’ll be in Penthouse in a couple years anyway.
But Machete isn’t some weepy piece of Oscar bait that has to get every little thing exact. And to be honest, if this were a completely honest and objective and cooler-than-thou arthouse review, I’d have to slam this movie for a lot of things. But this isn’t a movie that honestly deserves such treatment. Machete is an unapologetic bloody as hell thrill ride that is one of those movies that you either have to take it for what it is or move on to something else.
Some other reviews I’ve read of the film accuse it of being heavy-handed with the hot-button political issue of Latin American immigration, but to me, it could have been any number of things driving the plot forward. You’ve got the racist state Senator played by Deniro and the vigilante sheriff played by Don Johnson and the shotgun-toting priest played by Cheech Marin and Jessica Alba as a tough, sexy immigration agent and Michelle Rodriguez as an equally tough and equally sexy defender of Latin American immigrants. But honestly, the political undertones of Machete, while they do deliver a definite opinion, are only a tiny bit of medicine in an otherwise fun as hell action movie ride that never really takes itself too seriously. If you’re a fan of Robert Rodriguez or Danny Trejo or B-movies or action movies or Mexicans or life, I highly recommend you see Machete. It takes the other shitty movies you’ve seen this year and stabs them in the face with a sharpened weed whacker.