I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this is the first time I’ve ever seen a man crash through a window swinging on the “rope” of another man’s intestine. That was unnecessary, I thought between shocked giggles. But then, Robert Rodriguez’ Machete isn’t renowned for its subtlety.
The first we saw of Machete was the “fake trailer” shown as part of the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino Grindhouse double-feature (incorporating Rodriguez’ excellent Planet Terror).
I remember remarking at the time, “I would so watch that film!” and, in 2007, Rodriguez announced that it would be expanded into a full feature. The end of Machete proper even hints at two sequels.
“I want to see action, gore and boobs,” my husband remarked as we put the disc in, and he got his wish within the first three minutes. “OK, now it just needs to keep doing that for the next 90 minutes,” he said. That’s the thing about Robert Rodriguez films: you know exactly what you’re going to get. They’re like Tarantino films, but better. It may be cinematic heresy, but let’s face it: Tarantino has made precisely one good film. Aside from that, he’s made four or five films that would have been good if they’d been about half their running length. I might have giggled at Inglourious Basterds, but I just don’t think I could sit through it again. Rodriguez has no such pretensions: sure, he’s never made a Pulp Fiction, but he has a near-perfect record of entertaining popcorn B-movies and he’s never bored the tits off me with dull dialogue. “Machete don’t text” is about as verbose as it gets.
Machete has the same pop-crackle vintage treatment as Planet Terror, and charms from the outset. The main players are introduced quickly: evil mob boss Steven Seagal, corrupt senator Robert De Niro, double-crossing crook Jeff Fahey, underground Network leader Michelle Rodriguez and immigration cop Jessica Alba.
The plot is a little convoluted for such a popcorner, bringing in insane vigilante Don Johnson and spoilt druggie Lindsay Lohan (oh hush, now). There’s also the wonderful Cheech Marin as Machete’s “holy” brother, and Tom Savini in a basically unnecessary bit part.
So there’s knife-fights and gunfights and explosions a-plenty. Rodriguez said he put a nude scene right in the first few minutes so that you’d think you saw more than you actually do later on, but since absolutely everything in this film is gratuitous, that’s more trivia than anything. It’s entertaining for the boys, but most of the time I was just wondering how the hell someone as ugly as Machete could get so many beautiful women. It must be because he has a really big sword.
Although Machete doesn’t really put a foot wrong, it’s not as fun as Planet Terror. I’d probably rank it closer to Desperado in Rodriguez’s oeuvre – some fun, really memorable scenes but not as polished and cohesive as his other films. It’s a film I’ll buy when it’s cheap enough, rather than one I’d rush out to get immediately.
The weirdest bit of trivia is that the character of Machete originated from Spy Kids – he’s their mad uncle! Since I haven’t seen any of the Spy Kids films, perhaps I should take a look – though I have a feeling that they’d be a little different in tone and content to the director’s usual fare.
Here’s the New York Post review, which sums up a lot of my thoughts.