Originally Reviewed – 9/20/2010
Summer 2010 may go down in the ledgers of history as the Year of the Disappointment. Comedies didn?t make people laugh, rom-coms annoyed audiences to tears and action ficks either offered mild enjoyment (Salt, The Losers) or flat out made fans cringe (The Expendables). Even the biggest film of the season, Inception, met with some criticism from critics and fell short of that brilliant category it was all hyped up to be. Only one widely released film, Toy Story 3, has lived up to its expectations; the rest have largely been let downs, regardless of how low or how high those expectations might have been. Luckily, the latest film by grindhouse master Robert Rodriguez finally does just that. Gory yet hammy, violent yet silly, Machete delivers everything that small trailer in Grindhouse promised and is one of the best action movies to come out this year.
Starring the ugliest man in Hollywood, Danny Trejo, Machete is the tale of a Mexican federale who, after witnessing the brutal slaying of his family, has resigned himself to a life of day laboring in Texas. However, after beating a man senseless one handedly (the other hand is holding a soft taco), he is recruited by a high powered executive to assassinate a controversial senator, played wonderfully by Robert DeNiro. This sets in motion a whole slew of exciting action scenes as well a nicely drawn story of immigration and its effect on hard working people. While the story is largely unimportant, it does give the movie a root in something real as opposed to the standard ?army / spy / commando? fare we?ve been seeing this summer.
For the most part, the cast is spot on featuring fine performances by pretty much everyone. From Jessica Alba as a sexy immigration officer to Michelle Rodriguez as a taco stand owner / underground revolutionary to even Cheech Marin as a shotgun toting man of the cloth, most of the cast plays their parts in a very shallow but always entertaining way. With performances that are admittedly campy and over the top, the film is written with sly winks all around, making them appear more homage than cornball. Only Lindsay Lohan disappoints as the executive?s prostituting, drug addled daughter. While the part hits almost too close to reality, the fact of the matter is she can?t pull it off and the character really has no bearing on the story except for obvious shock value.
Although many people have been labeling Machete as the Mexican Expendables, nothing could be further from the truth. Where the Expendables was ham handedly written and directed, Robert Rodriguez realizes that even the silliest of action films need to have someone skillful behind the camera and that talent is evident in spades. Not only does Rodriguez create a wonderful homage to the 70?s style grindhouse flicks he grew up with, he peppers the film with his own brand of winking, offbeat comedy. This gives the film a desperately needed shot of style and self awareness, something that was completely missing in that other summer action blockbuster.
Knowing it?s a complete guilty pleasure and embracing every moment of it, Machete is a pulpy, gory and completely enjoyable good time. While not prestige cinema by any means, Machete is, quite simply, one of the best times you?ll have in mainstream cinema this summer. Ever since El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez has done great things with very little, mainly because he knows exactly who he is as a person and director. This self awareness penetrates almost everything he does and continues with this, one of his best films to date. While the movie isn?t perfect, the spirit of the picture is. Outlandish and brash yet smarter than expected, Machete is a great summer thrill ride that will have you laughing almost as much it will have you gasping. A confidently and competently made piece of summertime candy, Machete pushes the boundaries yet leaves everyone who sees it yearning for more
Score – 90%