I think I deserve an award for self-control. Too many times over the past two months since Machete’s US release have I heard the siren call of certain websites, on a bored week night I could easily pass a couple of hours with some Mexploitation fuelled mayhem now couldn’t I? How could I resist the allure of cult favourite Danny Trejo carving his way through a horde of criminal henchmen? Could the spectacle of De Niro starring in a gore soaked Rodriguez flick cause me to abandon my principes of intently seeing the good-looking flicks on the big screen as god intended? But no, my self-control has prevailed for a change, I really wanted to see this at the cinema with a paying audience in order to achieve optimum viewing conditions, and earlier today I popped over to a local Southwark cinema for a potential 100 minutes of giggle packed carnage.The modicum of reviews I’ve glanced through seemed to point to this being exactly what it said on the tin – an unfussy, inventive, thrill packed action-fest so I am considering legal action against those miscreant reviewers, it is my solemn duty to report that Machete is a blunt waste of talent from the directors chair down.
Lifted from the blistering first trailer of 2007’s scabrous Grindhouse project Machete expands its spoof intentions out to feature film length , following the revenge flick model as a Mexican cop named Machete loses his wife and partner in an opening salvo due to the treachery of his colleagues and their criminal puppet masters, returning to his border town three years later to exact a bloody vengeance. Teaming up with a local immigration officer (Jessica Alba) and a secret resistance fighter whom is offering foreigners safe border passage (Michelle Rodriguez), the sun bleached visage of Danny Trejo faces off against a criminal quartet of corrupt politicians and lawman including Robert De Niro as a right-wing senator, Don Johnson as a murderous vigilante, Stephen Segal as a portly drug lord and Jeff Fahey as a corporate lummox. Bubbling under the action histrionics are some attempts of commentary on the smouldering US immigration debate, but the central focus is on entertainment, on kinetic thrills and spills with Trejo carving a bloody path through an assortment of dark suited and sunglass sporting expendable goons, as he incrementally inches toward his brutal retribution.
What a disappointment. I can’t fathom how the team behind the hilarious and genuinely exciting Planet Terror who pitched that homage perfectly with its terrific blend of humor, horror and hoopla could produce such a dulled blunder. There are moments of genuine amusement to be sure, the opening melee is fun and the film is patched with a half-dozen genuine laughs throughout its excessive run-time, but it’s just too serious and pedestrian with very little in the way of genuine invention or exploitative excess. The film soon degenerates into a mental check-list of the finer beats of the trailer which when extracted out of that context parade limply across the screen, even the fervent wish of the final battle being some sort of resuscitation is ultimately denied. Trejo is fine as the granite hewed hero but he doesn’t get many good lines and the intrinsically comic persona of Segal is throughly wasted – how difficult can it be to give him some absurd yet convivial dialogue and duties? Rodriguez and Alba are easy on the eye but don’t get much to do, Robert De Niro is invisible and only Jeff Fahey manages some wry smiles when seething at the news of Machete seducing his wife and daughter, the latter being a mis-cast Lindsay Lohan. Cult superstar Tom Savini makes a pointless appearance as a leather clad assassin but you know what, as I write this I can’t even remember what happened to his character, a lapse that speaks volumes about his contribution to the picture. After this and the Predators debacle Rodriguez needs a serious bout of inspiration, he can pull off this type of movie with panache as per the aforementioned Planet Terror and Sin City, and the prospect of two Machete sequels that are jokingly referenced as the credits rolled don’t exactly lacerate with excitement. To cheer myself up I’ve trawled through the web to find some finer moments of grindhouse merriment, now that’s what I call having a blast….