AKA: Grindhouse, Machete
Director: Robert Rodriguez, Ethan Maniquis
Cast: Danny Trejo, Steven Seagal, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Tom Savini, Shea Whigham
Running Time: 105 min.
Danny Trejo plays the titular character, an ex-Mexican cop-turned-migrant worker who gets caught up in a conspiracy between some rich guy and the drug dealer by the name of Torrez (Steven Seagal) who killed his family. With the help of a freedom fighter/illegal alien enabler named Luz (Michelle Rodriguez) and an American immigration agent named Sartana, he plans to take down the whole operation. Along the way, he has to deal with a xenophobic Senator played by Robert DeNiro and a local militia movement.
So the good news is we finally get an R-rated movie which doesn’t flinch from the violence, but which doesn’t get off on it, either. The lead doesn’t look like a squeaky-clean teenager or 20-something who relies on bullet-time every other shot to get his/her point across. I don’t have to listen to boring conversations about the personal lives of the supporting female characters, either. And you won’t get short-changed on the nudity, as long as you don’t expect it to be from any actual celebrities in the film.
The bad news is this flick ends up being talkier than necessary. Yeah, cashing in on the controversy in AZ makes sense, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear people debate about the issue. Just keep it simple and allude to it, like that recent trailer for Machete. And Seagal apparently wants to out-do Will Sasso’s parody of him [Just look for “MADTV Seagal” on Youtube if you don’t get it already.], since he comes off as a super-brute, rather than a real threat. In addition he just sits behind a monitor most of the time practicing for a stage version of the DePalma Scarface.
And Rodriguez really goes overboard on the extras. The film should be about one-on-one fights, and I generally either get re-enactments of John Woo shoot-outs or the low-rider answer to Braveheart. You do get plenty of knife-fight porn, though, but I wish there wasn’t so much quick cutting of it.
I have no problem with most of the female talent, however, even though Lohan seems like she hasn’t detoxed yet when she appropriately plays the rich guy’s fallen daughter. Still, I usually get more irritated when Alba thinks she’s above her usual school of softcore porn-style acting, and once again-besides in Sin City-RR managed to make her likeable and more down to earth. As someone who is caught between her American and Mexican backgrounds, and she’s not able to easily make quick decisions like everyone else. Michelle Rodriguez could have had more action scenes in her place, though, since I could buy her being able to kick ass more than Alba.
The quips and b-movie mannerisms of the characters in general are pretty catchy, but not quite loose enough. The actors take the material a little too seriously at times, when they should be able to have fun with the lines. But then, as I noted earlier, they’re held back by the direction where they’re forced to focus too much on the issues, and not enough on the setting. And yeah, even the ending is dragged out longer than necessary with a pointless DeNiro sub-plot. Still, Machete’s enjoyable for what it is, and I hope, if that alleged sequel happens, it’ll be a smoother ride.
Ningen’s Rating: Nudity: 8/10; Comedy: 8/10; Action and Pacing: 6.5/10; Overall: 7.5/10