April 28, 2011

Rabid Rewind: "Machete"

starring: Danny Trejo, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, and Jeff Fahey
directed by: Roberg Rodriguez
written by: Robert Rodriguez and Alvaro Rodriguez
20th Century Fox (2010)

How do you like your pulp? With extra pulp? Well, you're in luck, because Machete is nothing but pulp.

I was one of those people who absolutely loved the Grindhouse double feature, Planet Terror and Deathproof, and got a real kick out of the fake trailers other directors made to air between those two movies. I remember the buzz about one trailer especially, featuring Danny Trejo, called Machete. I guess it didn't take long for the green light to go up and Robert Rodriguez to start production on an actual movie.

The movie is unabashedly cheesy. The first five minutes have Machete, a Federale agent, rescuing a naked woman and killing a whole lotta bad guys in bloody fashion. He's double-crossed though, and is left for dead after the murders of his wife and daughter. Years later, he resurfaces in Texas a broken man, recruited by a business man to assassinate a xenophobic senator. But again, he's double-crossed.

From there, the movie is all about bloody revenge and liberation for illegal immigrants. The action scenes range from brilliantly executed to comically effective. As for the acting ...

The movie is an homage to various exploitation films, so I guess acting isn't a primary concern--or it's just purposefully presented as bad. Some actors like Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Rodriguez play their roles to great effect, while Steven Seagal and Jessica Alba--in my estimation, anyway--just didn't offer believable or even passable performances. Jessica Alba as an Immigration and Customs agent comes off as out of place and miscast as Denise Richards in that James Bond movie where she played the nuclear physicist. Still, Alba is easy on the eyes, and no one is gunning for an Oscar anyway, so what's the harm. Seagal, was a bit heartbreaking, though. I used to love his films as kid and young teen, and to see a pot-bellied lethargic version of the man waddling on screen just cut through whatever nostalgia there was.

Jeff Fahey really came off as the MVP in the movie, giving a performance that showed a steely demeanor and then manicly aggressive when pushed into a corner. And his scene with Cheech Marin in the church was a particular delight.

The movie accomplishes everything it sets out to do, so I really shouldn't gripe. I did have a fun time watching it despite my misgivings to certain aspects. But, I guess I was expecting something a little more high-end, after being wowed by Planet Terror and Deathproof--and even Inglorious Basterds. There's a fair bit of time separating this movie and Desperado, where I first recall seeing Trejo on screen. Given the choice, I'd probably re-watch Desperado.

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