Machete – He Gets the Women & He Kills Bad Guys

Let me start by saying Danny Trejo is awesome.  The fact that we are living in a time where he is headlining a movie is great.  Trejo has gone from boxing in San Quentin to becoming incredibly prolific, appearing in well over 100 films.  He has served mainly as a memorable, tough Mexican in roles ranging from Navajas in Desperado to one of De Niro’s men in Heat to a bartender in Anchorman.  Having a movie like this, with Robert Rodriguez’s direction and a very varied cast involved is wonderful. I had a lot of fun with this movie.  That being said, having a 105 minute movie stretched from a hilarious (and awesome) 2 minute trailer really only works best if one can keep up that same momentum throughout.  Unfortunately, this film doesn’t quite accomplish that.  It’s still a lot of fun, but doesn’t cement itself as a “grindhouse” classic.

Luz:  Machete, I know the legend.

Trejo stars as Machete, a top Federale agent, who is most handy with his trusty machete blade.  The film begins with Machete attempting to rescue a damsel and take down a drug lord, Torrez (played by Steven Seagal), which completely backfires, resulting in the death of Machete’s wife and his exile to Texas, where he begins work as a day laborer.  Years later, Machete is recruited by a mysterious business man, Booth (played by Jeff Fahey), to assassinate Senator John McLaughlin (played by Robert De Niro).  This Senator is hell bent on closing down the borders and putting up a huge electrified fence, but many are not in favor of this plan.  Machete accepts the job, but things aren’t as they seem, as it is quickly learned that he has been setup for the sake of boosting popularity in the Senator’s cause.  And to make matters more interesting, the Senator may have closer ties to Machete’s past than he knows.

The film also stars Michelle Rodriguez as a taco-truck owner who moonlights as a rebel leading the immigrants to a better place, Jessica Alba as a beautiful Immigrations Officer, Cheech Marin as a gun-toting priest and Machete’s brother, Tom Savini (hell yeah!) as a rival assassin, Don Johnson as a twisted border vigilante, trying to keep the immigrants out and Lindsay Lohan as “herself”…a girl who’s made some bad choices.

Sartana: We didn’t cross the border.  The border crossed us!

Stemming from the mind of Robert Rodriguez many years ago, the idea of the original trailer featured in the Rodriguez/Tarantino two-part, genre-fest, Grindhouse, was to have all the best parts of a fake action (or Mexploitation) film to be cut together in a short and amazing montage.  Featuring footage that is all over-the-top, ridiculous, and very deliberate, the concept was fantastic in that form.  Due to the popularity of that trailer, this film has been made, but it features less moments than one would hope for that match the great moments in the original trailer, which are in fact incorporated into this film.

A lot of weight was put onto the intricate plotting of this film.  I say that with somewhat loose regard, because this certainly isn’t a film that you get into for it’s plotting, but there are still a lot of moments devoted to explaining what the big issues of this film are, whether it be about its very firm stance on the rights of immigrants (which leads to some humorous social commentary), the idea of fighting for justice, or its simple cause for revenge.  When time is spent on these the first two elements, the film really bogs itself down.  If the film just focused on Machete’s revenge and shaved twenty minutes off its runtime, I think it would have been a lot more fun.  Not to say that the film is too serious, it just feels a bit overstuffed and could have been tighter.

Booth’s Henchman: [about Machete] CIA, FBI, DEA all rolled up into one.

With that out of the way, it’s now time to focus on what this film does well.  It gives us more Machete.  This character, who could only be played by Trejo (I don’t care if it’s a flashback to him as a child, only have Trejo play him) is the embodiment of Mexican bad-assery.  He knows how to kill, he says all the right things – “Machete don’t text,” and all the women want him.  He’s also a great improviser, always having a way to get out of a tough situation (see hospital escape sequence).  As Rodriguez and Trejo have described Machete, he is really the first Latino superhero.

This film benefits from its large cast as well.  While not everyone seems to quite be up to speed on how to play the joke of this film, for the most part, everyone is solid.  Cheech Marin is a hilarious oxymoron, acknowledging his faith while taking out hitmen.  Don Johnson and Steven Seagal are surprisingly very funny and seem to be having the times of their lives.  De Niro is more than game to have a lot of fun here.  Rodriguez, Lohan, and Alba (In that order, best to worst, in terms of acting) make sure to fill this movie’s hot babe quota.  And Jeff Fahey manages to be my favorite, continuing his run as great B-movie character actor.

The direction from Robert Rodriguez, who shares credit with his frequent collaborator, Ethan Maniquis, is solid, although the movie begins with the style and look that he created for his half of GrindhousePlanet Terror, but then does not continue for the rest of the film.  It is certainly over-the-top throughout (see hospital escape sequence), but I wish this movie just went full on as another edition to Grindhouse.  That being said, Rodriguez once again uses his love for making films digitally to deliver the kind of film that’s cool and slick, with some fun and well shot action.  I just hope that with these films out of his way, Rodriguez can get on with making his follow up to Sin City.

I wish I could have loved this film, but I did like it a lot.  It’s more fun than The Expendables, but not quite as much fun as Piranha 3-D, although it is better made.  Really, Machete satisfies in mostly all the ways it can.  It has a lot of over-the-top action, ridiculous sequences and characters and lead star Danny Trejo being completely bad ass.  Despite my reservations, I’m sure this film will continue to benefit from repeated viewings down the line.

Padre Benito del Toro: It’s not safe for you to be here.
Machete: I’m not looking for “safe”.
Padre Benito del Toro: No, I mean it’s not safe for me for you to be here!


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

11 Responses to “Machete – He Gets the Women & He Kills Bad Guys”

  1. Brian White

    That sucks that you did not love every minute of this! I’m going in with high expectations, even though I know the usual consequences of doing so, but everything I have see thus far just looks so awesome. And did I see that right? Jessica Alba is the worst female actress in this film? 🙁

    How can that be? She’s Sartana!

    Jessica Alba as Sartana!

  2. Sean Ferguson

    I agree with Brian. How can Jessica Alba be the worst female actress in this movie? After all Michelle “One Note” Rodriguez is in it too.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    I tried to tread lightly on this, because I have become aware of Brian’s love for Alba, but beyond being incredibly attractive, I don’t think she’s a very good actress. And Rodriguez may play a similar role in most things she’s been in, but she does it well. Plenty of actors have done the same thing over and over again and made it work. I’m no big fan of Rodriguez, but I at least believe her in the roles she plays.

  4. Gregg

    GREAT! GREAT! GREAT! GREAT! What a fun flick!! It was completely ridiculous and that’s what gave Machete its own special charm. RODRIGUEZ IS DA MAN!! And can I just say, Lindsay Lohan looked fine, fine, fine.

  5. Brian White

    Brian is in love with Jessica Alba? That’s news to me. 🙂

    Thanks for your kindness Aaron.

    I agree with everything in the review above except the Alba statement of course. I wanted to love this movie, but instead of a Top 5 it is barely making my Top 10. I liked it for the fun factor, but as Aaron says…the slow parts weighed heavy at times.

    Rodriguez sure likes to use those fake explosions alot.

    Gregg…you do know that Lohan used a body double in there, right?

  6. Gerard Iribe

    @Brian Slow parts??? What slow parts? “Fake” explosions cost less than real ones. Otherwise what would be the point of bringing his films under budget? Sin City had ALL FAKE EXPLOSIONS, so I’ll pretend I didn’t read that. BTW, Machete is still a GRINDHOUSE film, that’s its charm and that’s why it works.

  7. Brian White

    @ Gerard…as Aaron says above…there are a few moments where things could have been tighter (that’s where I was referring to “slow parts”), but really….to each his own, right? And about the explosions. I don’t have a problem with them, but i think they are kind of overused in the film’s finale. I guess I was hoping for more of a bang at the end, but also like Aaron says above, I’m sure this film will get better with each subsequent watch. Day 1 for me on Blu-ray. Until then…remember…Machete don’t text…unless he needs to improvise.

  8. Bob Ignizio

    Re: the so-called “slow” parts. Go back and watch ‘Coffy’ or ‘The Big Bird Cage’ or ‘Slaughter’ or any other AIP/New World violent action flick from the seventies. They had just as much in the way of “slow” parts as this did, probably more. ‘Machete’ is trying to replicate those old movies as closely as possible without being a rip-off, and in my opinion it’s as perfect as it could be. Personally I’m glad that there still are one or two filmmakers who aren’t afflicted with ADD and actually care about telling a story and developing characters in between the explosions and decapitations.

  9. Aaron Neuwirth

    For the record, I never said “slow parts,” I just felt the movie was overstuffed with material. I get what the movie is trying to be and what kinds of films it is paying homage to, but just because it gets those aspects corrects, doesn’t mean it’s all the better for. There are still places in the film that just aren’t as much fun as the rest. I certainly don’t need ADD style filmmaking here, but this is Machete, a film that doesn’t need to rely on much of a story or fleshing out it’s ridiculous characters; however, it tried to, and it just wasn’t that interesting.

  10. Brian White

    Sorry Aaron…I did not mean my comments to sound like I was quoting you word for word. That’s what happens when you try to post from a Droid phone. Things get lost in translation 🙁 No matter what minor flaws this film may have, I won’t be seeing this in the theater again, but it’s certainly getting played in my Blu-ray player on release day…whenever that magical date is.

  11. Aaron Neuwirth

    That magical date will be DLD of course – Day Laborer Day.