The trailer for Machete originally featured between Planet Terror and Death Proof was one of the best parts of Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez‘s Grindhouse experience, further demonstrating how entertaining unabashed exploitation movies can be with tongue planted firmly in cheek, reveling in the finer points of the grindhouse flick while simultaneously making a good film. Unfortunately, all the feature-length version of Machete illustrates is that brevity is, indeed, the soul of wit.
So, if you haven’t already gathered from my reviews of The Expendables & Piranha 3D, I am a fan of over-the-top action movies and blood-soaked B-movies. I thoroughly enjoyed Grindhouse, and I was thrilled to hear that Machete (one of my favorite trailers from Grindhouse) was being made into a feature-length film. But quite frankly, I was very disappointed with Machete.
As setup in the original trailer, Danny Trejo plays Machete, a former Federale turned illegal-immigrant, working as a day-laborer in Texas… and the king of the bad-asses. He’s hired by the dubious Mr. Booth (Jeff Fahey) to kill the right-wing incumbent, Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro). Booth unceremoniously double-crosses Machete, making him a patsy in an elaborate scheme to garner sympathy and increase McLaughlin’s numbers at the polls. This is, of course, a mistake. And Machete goes on a blade-wheeling rampage, showing all the baddies that “they just fucked with the wrong Mexican.”
This is an amazing setup for a gloriously violent good time. But, it seems that Rodriguez’s attempts at expanding on the material from the trailer were a bit half-assed. Everything beyond what was seen in the trailer seems to be spread far too thin, making Machete a threadbare endeavor. Some of the action is fairly exciting, but for the most part Rodriguez seems to sacrifice spectacle to the gods of CGI gore, piling on the fake blood and guts to make up for what I can only assume is Rodriguez’s waning imagination or (God forbid) Trejo’s advancing age hindering his ability to be as physical as the role required. Don’t get me wrong, Trejo is great, still a bad-ass and if he kicked the living shit out of me for my less than stellar review, I’d probably consider it warranted.But, there were just so many other things that were wrong with this movie. I found myself bored out of my mind at times. Like many a lesser exploitation film, the exposition is tedious and it seems to be never-ending. Do I really need to know anything beyond the fact that he’s a bad-ass Mexican they tried to frame and now he’s going to get revenge by killing them all? No, I don’t. And most of the humor isn’t funny, especially any joke Jessica Alba attempts to deliver. I’m not really a huge fan of Alba in general (still can’t believe they cast her as Nancy in Sin City, but that’s a whole other can of worms I don’t wanna get into right now), but here she seems to be particularly dreadful, as if she’s trying to emulate a bad B-movie actress, when her normal acting would suffice.
On the flip side, Cheech Marin is funny, as usual, providing some actual laughs. Jeff Fahey is great as Booth. I’ve always liked Fahey, but I think he, like a fine wine, has only gotten better with age. His gruff brooding and steely gaze always makes for a wonderful villain. Don Johnson is also an interesting addition, somewhat superfluous, but interesting nonetheless. And of course Steven Seagal’s natural menace is put to good use as Torrez, Machete’s former partner turned drug lord and arch nemesis. Torrez is setup in a back-story that is also pretty superfluous. It’s as though Rodriguez had ideas for several different movies and instead of developing each of them individually, he just crams them all into one film. This film has far too many villains, which is weird to say, but it’s true. Do I like the fact that Jeff Fahey, Don Johnson, Robert De Niro, Steven Seagal, and Tom Savini all play villains, yes. But, with so many key villains, none of them really get enough face time.All in all, there’s a lot of potential here, but most of it goes to waste thanks to Rodriguez’s worst writing since Once Upon a Time in Mexico (I don’t count the kids movies, I just assume they’re bad). It’s great to see Danny Trejo as the leading man, too bad Rodriguez didn’t write a better film for him to lead. Machete is dull, beyond sophomoric, painfully meta and far too full of itself to ever really be a good time. It’s an extremely disappointing movie-going experience, failing to endear itself to fans of the genre it’s in homage to, instead becoming the worst of what the exploitation genre has to offer… a bad movie. Do yourself a favor, stick with the trailer (see both the original trailer and the trailer for the feature below)… or better yet, see Black Dynamite instead.
Original trailer from Grindhouse:
Trailer for feature-length film: