When crime lord Torrez (Steven Seagal) captures a Federale and kills his family, Machete plot revenge. Years later he finally gets the chance when a plan to assassinate a United States senator brings Torrez back into the open. It’s time for justice at the end of a blade.
Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez
Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba
The worst part is that it should be a lot of fun
Machete first started life as a hyperkinetic trailer nestled between the twin features of Grindhouse on its American debut. By the time that three hour plus cut had bombed and finally made it way over to europe, it had been sliced in two and the fun collection of trailers excised. But never fear; now audiences can bask in a 105 minute version of the original trailer.
Perhaps it was foolish to expect much from a movie based on a two minutes trailer about a Mexican named after a large bladed weapon but Machete is utterly underwhelming. From the basic revenge story opening to its surprisingly bland finale, there’s simply nothing to get excited about here.
Co-director and writer Rodriguez claims to have been thinking about this character since he first met lead Danny Trejo back in the mid 90’s on Desperado. With fifteen years to mull it over, you’d think he would have managed to come up with something a little better than this meandering tale of immigration, political corruption, decapitations and (offscreen) sex.
The worst part is that it should be a lot of fun. What’s not to like about a burly guy slicing up enemies with the greatest of ease and liberal doses of effective CG assistance? The action scenes are plentiful, the nudity present and accounted for and there’s even a moment where Machete eviscerates another hapless stuntman before using his intestines as a rope to swing to a lower level. Because Machete don’t do stairs. Nor does he text, and moments like these are positive reminders of the kinds of self-aware, over the top action films Rodriguez used to make.
Remember Desperado and that fantastic bar fight with dozens of guns and a healthy disregard for physics? With almost three times the budget and his own digital effects studio, Rodriguez hasn’t managed to mount a single scene that matches his 1995 effort for vigour and verve. What we do get are a series of disjointed set pieces, mangled in editing and culminating in a large scale revolution with unconvincing extras and no sense of geography or pacing. What should be a triumphant moment merely arrives instead of being built up, desperately searching for another gory kill shot.
Sadly the cast aren’t much help. Trejo wanders from scene to scene, looking more like a drunken itinerant than a superhero – it’s clear this role has come at least a decade too late for the actor. De Niro is totally disengaged and Lohan, brief nudity aside, is a non entity. Surprisingly, it’s Alba who comes off best here – staying straight faces throughout and really complimenting the tone of the piece while, not incidentally, looking absolutely stunning. Jeff Fahey has fun reprising his part from the trailer and Cheech Marin gets the best role as a shotgun-toting padre; he would have been a memorable character earlier in Rodriguez’ oeuvre.