Cartoon over the top fun in every sense of the imagination, ‘Machete’ delivers on blood soaked kills, B movie-esque style and fast paced delights. It may be a violent and somewhat clunky film but if you like Robert Rodriguez or silly exploitation movies, then there’s a great charm to be found in this exaggerated and enjoyable Grindhouse feature.
After Machete’s (Danny Trejo) wife and daughter are slaughtered by drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal), he leaves Mexico and lays low in America as a typical Mexican labour hand. He’s picked out as a man to assassinate running Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro) but upon a double cross Machete finds himself hunted down by enemies on all sides. He has to hope the help of Immigration Officer Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) and Luz (Michelle Rodrigeuz) is enough to stop a campaign to halt all Mexicans entering America.
There’s no uncertainty in how brutally skin deep this film is, there’s no depth in character or substance keeping you coming back for more. Director Robert Rodriguez employs the tasty and insane amount of kills and daft movie sequences to entice his audience for repeat viewings. It’s a fun escape of a film, some people may hate it for being violent, shallow and maybe too exploitative of Mexicans or women but I disagree. There’s no harm, it knows it’s nothing special, it’s having a grand lark in being the OTT spectacle it is.
Certain moments of obvious bad visual effect blood splatter or cliched characters can feel a tad of a let down, but then there’s bonkers inclusions of bungee intestines, bouncing cars or priests with guns that you can’t help but revel in the madness of ‘Machete’s world. The music by Chingon that runs alongside aids the movie really well, with that grimy rock and roll feel to elevate the suspense and exhilaration. Their Mexican vibe is evident and with back drops on ‘Kill Bill: Vol 2’ and ‘Once Upon a Time in Mexico’, there surely isn’t anyone else who could have stepped up and done the right music for this film.
It all has a lick of helpful shaky camerawork now and then which benefits the cheaper feeling of this Grindhouse presentation. The opening segment before titles and star credits is deliciously stamped with old film wobbles and added black scratches to make it seem like a reel being played. I love the way Rodriguez and Tarantino too, at least tried to bring back a bygone mode of cinema and in ‘Machete’ it lives on, serving as a fake trailer for their joint double bill outing, it’s now the real thing, with a sequel having been released last year and hopefully a space journey to come!
Danny Trejo is a silent and impressive figure for the lead role, his leathery face and angry demeanor truly selling Machete Cortez as a man not to be messed with. It’s a simple but effective character that has revenge as his main driving force and I don’t see a problem with that. Jessica Alba is an outsider who seems to be an obstacle for the Mexican heroes of the film but her later assistance with Machete is believable and her sassy yet doe eyed Sartana is an effective ass kicking tool when needed. Robert De Niro is a barrel of entertainment with his Texas drawl and cheesy villainous politician character, the end of Senator McLaughlin is a fantastic funny little end note too. Steven Seagal is there as the main baddie, opening up to let us see his despicable way and then getting a sadly short face off near the end, it’s a good role if nothing at all exciting or interesting for the man pulling the strings. It’s Jeff Fahey and Shea Whigham that are the better villains and there moody eyed gangster roles are more engaging to watch. All in all it’s a pretty impressive cast of talent that come together and show they’re having fun with it like we should be too.
A little hammy and an ending that doesn’t hit the heights it could have but overall ‘Machete’ is an inventive concept with blood, laughs and sharp blades to entertain you to absurd levels in the realm of exploitation cinema.