Review: Machete (2010)

Directed by: Robert Rodriguez & Ethan Maniquis
Starring: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba

Robert Rodriguez’s second foray into the world of 70s-era Exploitation cinema is just what you’d expect. Spawned from a spoof trailer originally shown as part of 2007’s surprisingly successful Grindhouse, Machete is an exceptionally lewd and often hilarious exercise that manages to entertain far more than offend. In sticking with the same look and feel Planet Terror reinvented as an obvious homage to the campy low-budget films of decades past, Rodriguez once again has crafted a visually stimulating and worthwhile treat that’s a welcome departure from a recent onslaught of recycled romantic comedy tropes and stereotypically loud blockbuster nonsense.

I’m not saying Machete is any more tasteful or inventive than your typical summer fare, I’m just saying it’s different, and in the best possible way. Right from the get-go, it’s apparent that the clichés the film’s purposely thin and ridiculous narrative embraces are only meant to hold our attention when blood isn’t being spilled and breasts aren’t being exposed. Seeing as how more heads roll within the first 5 minutes than in any two films combined, it’s safe to say that anyone with an appetite for excessive violence will most definitely be satisfied, as will those seeking a mostly mindless and unabashedly vulgar theatrical experience. Granted, that’s precisely what Machete aims to do, but in its own bizarre way, it manages to shine through as a sick, twisted form of artistic expression only Rodriguez seems to have perfected, regardless of how self-aware both this and the genre’s originators are.

While Machete remains thoroughly enjoyable and gleefully obscene throughout a substantial portion of its duration, I couldn’t help but feel as if it began to lose a bit of steam during the latter act due in part to its peculiarly lengthy run time. Without giving too much away, there are laughs to be had and the action remains appropriately over-the-top, but it’s as if Rodriguez and friends felt the need to haphazardly include a small dose of irony amongst other elements in an effort to give closure to something that generally doesn’t need any, thus possibly transforming the entire production into something a little too self-serious at certain points.

The casting choices almost collectively compensate for this, with each character being played to near cartoonish perfection by all involved. Surprisingly, this includes Lohan, whose role curiously mimics the current state her life is in, whether such a coincidence was at least partially intentional or not. That aside, seeing anyone else but Trejo in the starring role would be blasphemous for obvious reasons, and De Niro, Fahey and even Seagal portray their villainous counterparts convincingly enough to hold our interest as they stop at nothing to get their man.

Truth be told, I’d been looking forward to this ever since a feature-length film version of the aforementioned teaser trailer was announced. I always figured it’d be somewhat of a stretch, but Robert Rodriguez has deftly employed his signature style and technical expertise to craft the outlandishly violent and intentionally tasteless film we always knew would come of such a concept. It’s hilarious, both due to said violence and various instances of cheeseball dialogue, well-acted in a far less conventional sense, and above all, a rollicking good time. It’s not the best of the year, and it’s not quite the spectacle that Grindhouse was as a whole back in 2007, but as a way to spend a couple of hours on your day off, I’d say Machete is a pretty safe bet, providing you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Rating: 7/10

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