Friday, March 4, 2011
Horror Film Review
You know the deal. Machete was a fake movie trailer seen in front of the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse double feature Death Proof and Planet Terror. It was so popular, Rodriguez decided to make a full length film. Tricky, considering the crazy, 1970s exploitation vibe of the trailer and that he'd need to get the big-shot actors who appeared the satirical one-off to agree to a feature. What actor could refuse the opportunity to intentionally ham it up in a tongue-in-cheek bloodfest?
Danny Trejo is Machete Cortez, a Mexican Federale determined to take down Torrez, a drug lord played with understated menace by Steven Seagal. But it all goes wrong. Torrez beheads Machete's wife and then leaves the cop for dead. Three years later, Machete resurfaces in a Texas border town as a day-laborer. Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) runs a taco truck but also runs a version of the Underground Railroad to help Mexicans cross over into America, and Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) is a U.S. federal agent investigating the operation. Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey) chooses Machete at random to assassinate state senator McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) using the senator's extreme anti-immigration stance as a selling point. McLaughlin is in cahoots with an army of vigilantes lead by Von Jackson (Don Johnson) that patrol the Texas side of the border and murder any Mexicans they happen to come across. Machete agrees to the job but is double-crossed, framed, and then on the run. Turns out Booth works for McLaughlin and the assassination attempt was a political move. Booth is also in bed with Torrez who wants a border fence constructed so he can better control the influx of drugs into the U.S. Still with me? OK. Cheech Marin plays Machete's shotgun-toting brother who's a priest that video tapes confessions, and Booth just happens to be a member of his flock. Booth's daughter (Lindsey Lohan, not exactly playing against type here) is a drug-addled ditz who ends up as a .44 Magnum-toting nun.
If I were to keep going and explain what happens and why, we'd be here all day. Suffice it to say that Machete gets his revenge groove on and ends up in an all-out war with the vigilantes, not to mention a final confrontation with Torrez. The violence in this film is incredible. It always seemed to catch me by surprise and then it was always waaay over the top. Beheadings galore and one inspired scene where Machete slices open a bad guy's gut, grabs a handful of intestine and then jumps out a third-story window, using the intestine like a rope. It's so out of the blue that you don't even process what you're seeing until the scene's over. The whole movie's like that, paced so perfectly that boredom is not physically possible.
Acting: Would you like some cheese with your ham? I will say that Michelle Rodriguez stands out. She's just so damned cool.
Story: Your typical revenge tale with political corruption and illegal immigration tossed in for the hell of it. Nicely executed. It could have been a murky mess. The humor (especially the weed-whacker scene) was brilliant.
Direction: The best term I can think of to describe Rodriguez's style here is "run and gun."
Production Values: Since they were going for that 70s exploitation feel, it's hard to gauge, but I think it's safe to say the film's budget was not small.
Gore/FX: Consider this, Tom Savini plays a hit man. Don't know who he is? Look him up, then you'll understand why I mention it. Anyway, the blood sprays and spurts with gleeful impunity. His name is Machete, you know.
Ending: I will admit the climax wasn't as...climactic as I would have thought, but it wraps up fine. And just like in the old 70s flicks, we get the voice saying, "Machete will return in..." Beautiful final touch.
Verdict: Should you see Machete? Unless you're a super-strict horror nerd, yes you should.
My Rating: 4 out of 5
Posted by Nate Dean at 11:29 PM