Posted by ron On September - 8 - 2010

Betrayed and left for dead Danny Trejo is Machete, a man without a country hell bent on retribution against the men who had wronged him. If this trope sounds familiar, it’s because this film contains all of the basic food groups in delicous exploitation films: Mindless bloody violence, gratuitous nudity, campy performances, and an overly simplified sociopolitical message. There were no surprises in Machete but it was enjoyable for that very reason. As a Grind house trailer, it was billed as a ridiculous tale of bloody revenge built around an emotionless unstoppable Mexican killing machine that was one part Hammurabi and two parts Jason Vorhees. It delivered on that promise.

At age 66, Trejo was a marvel to watch. His scarred leathery face and imposing frame were perfect for a moody silent type haunted by his past. However it was his flat affect and minimal responses that provided so much of the film’s comedic timing. Whether it’s playing off of Jessica Alba or any of his co-stars, Trejo’s less is more approach was the perfect foil.

On one level, Machete was a revenge film but it was also part of a larger amusingly convoluted arc that ultimately ignited a revolution led by illegal immigrants living in Texas. At no point did the audience learn much about the network run by Michelle Rodriguez to which she cryptically replied to an immigration officer, “They pay their part.” Are they encouraging more illegal immigration or possibly working towards their citizenship? No more information was yielded. How was paying the network more advantageous than applying for a work visa? At no point did the audience ever learn about Machete’s political views on illegal immigration. In fact, we did not get any indication on what the illegal immigrants hoped to gain out of risking their lives to enter in a stand off between Machete and a rogue Border Patrol death squad. Fortunately the film didn’t spend too time on the socio-political commentary. The story never made it personal, mean spirited, or over serious. It provided just enough anti-Mexican juice for the audience to get behind the main protagonist, his allies, and to cheer the end of the overly theatrical villains played by DeNiro, Seagal, Fahey, and Don Johnson.

Director Robert Rodriguez hasn’t deviated too much from his body of work that included El Mariachi, Desperado, and Once upon a Time in Mexico. He’s still stuck on revenge but I think he’s learned how to get more out of his actors. He hasn’t lost his sense of culture. Little details in this film really added some reverence for pride and the importance of cultural identity. Rodriguez continued to suffer from choppy editing that absolutely killed the climax of Machete. When all the plotlines converged to the Border Patrol Death Squad camp, the chaos was edited down to posing, firing munitions, and next person. Shockingly Rodriguez didn’t recruit more Mexican Americans to work as extras. What was supposed to be a living tsunami of illegal immigrants resembled more of a minor league baseball team in number. It was unclear on whether or not this mega battle scene was chopped up badly on purpose but I thought Trejo deserved more of a coupe de grace and so did the audience.

Still, this film brought laughs, the action, and hot women. In my never ending tribute to George Thorogood’s One Bourbon, One Shot, One Beer I am rating Machete a nice cold beer that warrants another one because it’s a tasty guilty pleasure.


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