I’ve been a big fan of Robert Rodriguez for a long time. He’s essentially the guy who made me want to make movies. I went through an independant film director phase before I got more heavily into writing and photography and it was guys like him who had me convinced I could do it. El Mariachi is the gold standard in low budget independent films for me. It proved that you could make a genre movie with a handful of cash and enough people willing to help you out along the way. I directed a few short films and one feature length movie. Nothing to write home about, but it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. And I have to imagine that Robert had that same kind of fun when making Machete, because it sure as hell feels like he had a blast making it.
Machete is of course the full length version of the faux-trailer that Rodriguez put before Planet Terror, his section of the double-feature Grindhouse, which I’m still waiting for a full uncut DVD or (preferably) BluRay of in the near future. It focuses on a illegal Mexican day laborer set up in an assassination attempt gone wrong on an anti-immigration senator (played by Robert DeNiro, who is clearly having the time of his life chewing some scenery).
But Machete is no normal Mexican immigrant, oh no, he’s an ex-federale who lost everything when he attempted to take down, and I’m not making this up, Mexican Druglord Torrez played by Steven mothereffing Seagal. While DeNiro chews scenery with reckless abandon, Seagal has his own little buffet which he devours at his leisure. His accent, his demeanor, every last bit of it is like a glistening ham that the audience can’t get enough of, because he’s just plain great.
But the performances are just window dressing, really. This movie is about the action. There is no holding back here. It’s wet and juicy red stuff splattering every wall possible and while some of it was obviously CGI’d in post production, Rodriguez knows better than to go completely digital when he’s got Tom Savini on the set. Best not to try and pull that kind of BS with one of the masters of practical FX sitting a few feet away. And so squib hits and blood splatter with resounding effectiveness and some of the more outlandish violence serves to give Machete a very distinct feel. While it’s not trying to be the faux-grindhouse experience that Rodriguez went for with Planet Terror, it is most definitely a callback to exploitation action films in a way that not many other films are willing to touch. A lot of those exploitation movies dealt with serious issues in a not-so-serious way. Drugs, urban decay, etc. was all fodder for these sort of films back in the seventies and early eighties. With Machete, we get the action set against the backdrop of the immigration debate. And while the film doesn’t make a statement about immigration in any real way, because I doubt anyone would take it seriously if it did, the film does manage to feel more authentic than some of the other low-budget new-wave exploitation films.
Of course the film has its flaws, but the fact of the matter is that they mostly work toward the films favor. There are some abrupt moments that come from some choppy editing, but considering that this is a movie where a guy goes around killing people with knives for 75% of the movie, I don’t think they were going for any sort of technical awards. The movie seems to win over the audience, and with something like Machete that’s the test that needs to be passed.
And so I leave you with the recomendation to go see the damn movie and this picture of me with Danny “Machete” Trejo back in 2008. (I’ve lost a lot of weight since then, yeesh)