Monday, March 7, 2011


Machete is a pretty good companion to The Expendables, another bloody ensemble action film that came out in the late summer of last year. It's a little more low budget and skews a bit differently with its cast, featuring more well-known women than men and a bunch of character actors. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, and I hesitate to declare one or the other the truly superior film, but they're both mostly enjoyable, hilariously violent movies.

The movie stars the instantly-recognizable Danny Trejo as Machete, a Mexican federal who gets betrayed, crosses the border, and gets betrayed again, when he decides to finally fight back against all those who have wronged him. It's a pretty extensive list, including Jeff Fahey as a slimy businessman and Steven Seagal as a slimy ex-federal. Robert De Niro plays a slimy politician with a fake Texan accent, in one of the more obvious jabs in a movie full of easy commentary on the whole immigration issue. I didn't bother trying to really understand what the movie was trying to say, because it was clear from the beginning that the real purpose of Machete was to be a silly Mexploitation film, and the politics are just there so a bunch of Mexican people can make speeches and then fight a bunch of white people. Basically, our economy needs cheap illegal labor to run, and if you try to totally get rid of it, bad things will happen. In real life, people would lose money; in the movie, they might get shot or blown up.

But anyway Machete joins an underground criminal network in an attempt to get back at the many villains the film quickly introduces. To sum it up simply, much like Once Upon a Time In Mexico, the plot is kind of an overstuffed mess. There are too many characters who don't have enough to do and the movie doesn't take enough time to make them all worth the effort. Luckily, unlike Mexico, Machete mostly makes up for it by generally acknowledging its own silliness and letting the fun come from a bunch of silly one-liners and especially absurdly gory and occasionally honestly clever action scenes. There's also some pointless nudity and winking celebrity cameos, this movie did come out of the whole Grindhouse project after all. Rodriguez has proven himself pretty consistent at making entertaining low-brow movies on the cheap, and he did the same thing again here. Things kind of peter out once you realize there's no way he's going to resolve everything in a unique and satisfactory way, but if you just let it be a stupid action movie with a lot of mediocre-to-good ideas, it's not bad.

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