Directed by: Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez
Premise: An illegal Mexican immigrant known as Machete (Danny Trejo) is contracted to assassinate a senatorial candidate (Robert De Niro) who is pushing for hard line border enforcement. When Machete is set up and double crossed, he goes on a spree of bloody revenge that exposes a web of corruption.
What Works: Machete began as a mock trailer that opened the 2007 Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino double feature Grindhouse. The popularity of that trailer led to the production of this feature film. Impressively, the visuals of the trailer have been interpolated into this film flawlessly and the picture is the bloody, chaotic, satirical roller coaster ride that the original trailer promised. Alongside Salt, The Expendables, The Losers, MacGruber, and The A-Team, Machete is the latest in a string of nostalgic throwbacks to the action films of the 1980s and Machete by far is the best of them. The film places its tongue in its cheek and goes all the way, delivering outrageous action sequences with a sense of fun and unabashedly indulging the trashier elements of the genre and the period to which it is paying tribute. Key to making the film work is its list of performers, and Machete is well cast, starting with the title character played by Danny Trejo. Trejo understands the role and plays it with a degree of restraint; he does not huff and puff when a scowl or grunt or a one liner will do, and his physical presence does a lot of the acting. The supporting cast is effective as well, including Don Johnson as an overzealous boarder patrolman, Michelle Rodriguez as an immigrant advocate, Robert De Niro as an unscrupulous politician, and Steven Seagal as a drug czar. But for all of its silly action and self consciousness, Machete is a smart film and the satire is coherently conceived and sharply executed.
What Doesn’t: Machete does suffer from too many characters. Throughout the film there is no single conflict that emerges as the main storyline; Steven Seagal’s character is not given nearly enough presence or screen time and although the ending brings all the characters together it stops just short of giving them a entirely meaningful conclusion.
Bottom Line: Machete is good fun and a smart commentary disguised under the veil of exploitation. Even though the film doesn’t come to an entirely neat or coherent climax, it does enough right to merit serious attention as an action film and as a piece of satire.
Episode: #305 (September 12, 2010)