They just messed with the wrong Mexican.
Well I made it to my fiftieth post and what better way to celebrate than with, in my opinion, one of the two best action films of the year. In August we were lucky enough to have The Expendables, an all star action-movie ensemble cast extravaganza. I loved every minute of it and have seen it three times now. Putting all the old action movie stars, and some new ones, together in a movie could have failed miserably but I was extremely happy with the final product. And seeing Dolph back on the big screen was a thing to behold. Now in November (two months after the US, unfortunately) we finally get to see if Machete can hold it's own against the big boys of action.
Born as an idea that Rodriguez had after filming Desperado in 1993, Machete eventually culminated in to a fake trailer sandwiched between Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof" and Rodriguez's own "Planet Terror"; collectively known as Grindhouse. The idea was sound and although I believe they succeeded, the box office told otherwise. But there was still enough interest in the fake trailer for Machete to convince Rodriguez to take the fans seriously and actually film the thing in its entirety.
Machete is a different beast entirely to The Expendables. While The Expendables was all about stuffing as many recognisable action (and wrestling) stars into a movie and blowing things up in Madeupistan, Machete is more about one man's fight for vengeance, with a whole fleet of "hey it's that guy!" types in tow. The Expendables had Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jet Li; Machete has a weathered Danny Trejo, a larger Steven Seagal and Cheech.
We immediately and literally kick into high gear as Machete smashes his car into the wall of a house and begins taking out bad guys with his blade without even making eye contact with them. At one point he chops the hand off a guy who was shooting at him and uses the disembodied hand, still gripping the gun, to kill two other guys. Machete rescues a naked and stoned bimbo but it's a trap and get's shot in the leg for his efforts, then made to watch his wife die by decapitation at the hands of an evil Steven Seagal in drug-lord motif.
A few years later Machete alone and on hard times joins the daily work gangs to make a living. One day he is picked up by Jeff Fahey in a limousine. Machete expects some gardening or plumbing work but instead is offered $150k to kill a right-wing politician (Robert De Niro) with strong anti-immigration ideals. Machete considers and eventually accepts the money. You know the drill from here if you've seen the fake trailer - Machete is double crossed, Machete turns out to be an ex-Federale, Machete get's revenge.
There is so much gold in Machete I have trouble finding where to begin. Once again I have to turn to the IMDB Parental Guide to summarise some of the best parts of this movie:
- Machete stabs a man in the stomach, he then uses his intestine as a rope.
- Machete chops a man's arm off, cuts off his head and slices it in half.
- Machete injures a man with a weed wacker.
- Machete makes out with two women in the pool, they are mother and daughter, and you see their breasts for the whole scene.
I can't emphasise enough how cool some of the violence and gore is in the movie. It's slapstick on level with Evil Dead 2, and then some. A guy gets crushed by the wheels of a bouncing car. That says it all really.
The only real downsides to the movie, and there aren't many, are basically the same ones I have with The Expendables. Firstly: so much awesome talent and not enough time. I love Steven Seagal and I could not get enough of his ridiculous Mexican accent in this, but he spends the vast majority of the movie behind a laptop and on a screen. This is understandable as he would simply get all his henchmen to do the work, and he does finally come out swinging a samurai sword, but still I would have liked some Seagal Slap-fu. Tom Savini also only has a very minor role as a hitman but I had forgot he was in this at all so was delighted to see him show up.
The second downside is Jessica Alba. She is a very pretty girl, no doubt about that, but out of all the ladies in Machete she is the one that needs to work on her acting chops a little more. That may sound harsh but up against the display that Michelle Rodriguez put on as the Taco-selling reisistance-running Luz, Alba's law enforcement character was weak by comparison. Her lines were delivered mostly flat and without emotion, whereas I easily believed Luz had been fighting this war for years. I can let it slide however, as many grindhouse movies of old had far, far worse acting on show than Alba.
Cheech is brilliant as Padre - I wish all priests were like him - he is a definite highlight. Seagal proves he still has it and also that he can play an over-the-top bad guy, something he hasn't done before (It's great to see him on the big screen again just like Dolph, too). Fahey, De Niro and Don Johnson as the vigilante redneck are all great, and even the Lohan factor couldn't keep the movie down. Despite her negative publicity she's a fine actress. In fact she should play Killer Nun's more often.
Danny Trejo IS Machete. This could be his typecast for the next twenty years. There is absolutely nobody else that could pull off this role so well. Trejo does some of his best acting with just the cracks and lines in his face. He delivers some cool lines that are bound to become catch phrases and as was said in the fake trailer "He kills the bad guys. He gets the women". Boy, does he ever.
I was amazed that all the main parts of the fake trailer were used, verbatim, in the final picture. Some isolated scenes would have been easy to include, like Machete sharpening his blade on a stone wheel, but Rodriguez went to the effort of making up Lindsay Lohan to look like the blonde from the skinny-dipping scene in the fake trailer and filming more of it. And of course we still get the awesome scene with Cheech ("God forgives. I don't!") and the finale of the fake trailer Machete on his motorbike with mounted minigun. The inclusion of all these scenes is very important as it shows that Rodriguez both respects his fan base and also stays true to his original ideals for Machete.
There have been some nay-sayers about the strong political agenda Machete raises. I have to plead ignorance on this. I know very little about Mexico and so-called illegals in America; it's not something that really gets reported on in Australian news. I only know what I've seen in this and other TV shows and movies - obviously not trustworthy sources of information - that all Mexicans are lazy drug dealers and/or working as maids in hotels filled with white people. That would be like saying all Australians own pet kangaroos and live on a diet of beer (well.. that last part is quite accurate). So I see this as I would any other action movie; a required plot to get us from explosion A to explosion B. And on that front it excels. I didn't take my eyes off the screen for a second. The Senator's campaign videos were a hoot too.
Honestly they are very different movies, but if the choice were between The Expendables and Machete I would have to give my final vote to Machete. It's non-stop action, it's hyper-violent, there's plenty of boobs and tonnes of laughs. The Expendables was a great homage to 80's action. Machete is pure grindhouse.