It would be easy to initially dismiss the Machete as nothing more than just another cheap action film. After all, we’ve seen director Robert Rodriguez pay homage to gritty Grindhouse cinema in Planet Terror, and Machete began as nothing more than a funny mock-film trailer, so it may seem redundant to make the film in the first place, but that simply isn’t the case. Machete isn’t just another cheap action film. It’s THE cheap action film. It’s not just a fun homage to B-level cinema, but a retake on the genre tailor-made for a modern audience’s sensibility.
Rodriguez knows what his audience wants, and he gives it to them non-stop for an hour and 45 minutes. Within the first 10 minutes alone there is enough shameless wink-at-the-audience fun to fill an entire Jason Statham action franchise. There’s so much testosterone-fuelled madness you’d think Rodriguez and Co. would run out of ideas and the film would lag in its repetition. But it doesn’t.
Somehow Rodriguez has managed to insert enough plot, development, twists, absurd cameos, and varieties of humor that, while never interrupting his bizarre world for a second, he has made a B-movie for everyone to enjoy. Even those reluctant to see the film, thinking they already know what to expect, will be pleasantly surprised at how keen Rodriguez is to his audience’s sensibilities. He knows when plain parody is appropriate and when enough is enough.
Machete is a B-movie that goes further than any B-movie ever could, and yet, stops short of insulting the form. Rodriguez takes the best of modern cinema – the effects, the actors (Robert DeNiro for crying out loud!), the irony, and an understanding of previous genre-films – and manages to squeeze it into a different world, rather than forcing a tired joke to stand at feature length. He knows what bothers the casual viewer about B-movies, and he knows what fans of B-movies love about them, and marries the two into a film that appeals to anyone who wants to have fun in a movie theatre.
Danny Trejo soars as the most unorthodox action star in years. A list of supporting actors includes DeNiro, as a caricature of an opportunist Senator, Jessica Alba in what turns out to be surprisingly well-layered eye-candy, Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, and Don Johnson as parodies of evil movie villains, Lindsay Lohan as a shameless online voyeur, and hilarious scene-stealing turns by Cheech Marin and Daryl Sabara. Rodriguez uses them all to make sure that there is never a dull moment.
The Grindhouse double feature that Rodriguez created with Quentin Tarantino and a host of guest directors was more a cinematic event than a trip to the movies, and with Machete, Rodriguez has condensed that experience into a single feature-length movie experience. Following Trejo’s vigilante ex-Federale on a tale of revenge through an over-the-top immigration reform revolution filled with non-stop sex, violence, and adrenaline is exactly the wild ride it’s advertised as.
Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Daryl Sabara
Director: Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox