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Machete (2010, USA)

30/03/2011

Director: Robert Rodriguez     Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, Don Johnson, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan

“I cost the most because I’m the best there is!” or so declared Danny Trejo as Machete in one of the fake trailers that accompanied the Rodriguez/Tarantino retro B movie style Grindhouse project. So taken were audiences by the prospect of Trejo exacting bloody revenge on the bad guys that Rodriguez was encouraged to work it up into a full feature film. So is Machete really the best there is or does this “Mexploitation” action flick fall short of the mark? I think how much you will enjoy it really depends on the expectations you bring to it.

In a nutshell, Machete is a former Mexican Federal who, after being left for dead by evil drug kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal with a Bisto tan and dubious Mexican accent – possibly the least annoying he has ever been on screen wierdly..) has taken refuge across the border in Texas, scraping by getting piece work as immigrant labour. His fortunes are set to change when he gets hired by the mysterious Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate anti-immigration advocate and incumbent Senatorial candidate Senator Mclaughlin (Robert De Niro doing a decent job of not taking himself seriously). They change for the worse when he discovers that the job is a setup in order to boost support for Mclaughlin’s hardline stance on immigration. When Booth and his cronies attempt to tie up the loose ends by killing him, he teams up with ambitious immigration Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba) and leader of the Mexican immigrant undergound, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) to bring the fight to the enemy.

There’s a lot going on, probably too much for a film that is essentially a fairly straightforward revenge flick. I can’t help but get the feeling Rodriguez has over egged the pudding in an attempt to differentiate Machete from his Mariachi films, an attempt that ultimately fails. That said, outside of the overly elaborate plot there’s a lot to be enjoyed here. The action doesn’t let up, good old fashioned straight up fun where reloading is only necessary when it adds to the tension, heroes make impossible shots and survive what should be fatal wounds with relative ease. In this respect Rodriguez rarely disappoints in any of his films and his flair for entertaining and often amusing set pieces is evident here.

It should be said that the whole thing is extremely tongue in cheek. Necessarily so. Any attempt to make such a preposterous film with a straight face would have been doomed to failure. It is vital you keep this fact very much at the front of your mind, if you do then you should have a lot of fun. Admittedly some of the jokes don’t work (surely nobody finds jokes about being unable to send a text message funny anymore?) but there are a lot of them that do and I found myself laughing out loud a lot before the film was over. There are various attempts to lampoon the genre which again have mixed results but work more often than not. It’s all rather silly (maybe not quite as silly as Black Dynamite but definitely in its vicinity) but in a likeable way.

If you are a fan of Robert Rodriguez you will probably like Machete. It’s not his best work but is watchable, assuming you don’t mind big, dumb and full of fun action movies. The big name cast do a good job of getting into the spirit of things and not taking themselves seriously and as long as you embark upon Machete with the same attitude, it’s an enjoyable couple of hours of viewing.

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