Machete is a 2010 American action-comedy film written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and also directed by Ethan Maniquis. In-order to really develop an understanding of how this film came to be, we could head back to Desperado where Danny Trejo played a similar character, or we could head to Spy Kids, where he basically played this character. In Spy Kids, he was a spy that helped watch over the kids named Machete Cortez as well. In Grindhouse, a film from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, Machete appeared in a fake trailer for his own film. Somewhere down the line, they decided that they wanted to make a real film for the character, and here we are.
The film stars Danny Trejo in a rare lead role, and co-stars various known actors such as Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, and Jeff Fahey. Receiving some generally positive reviews from critics and audience-members, the film, a modest success, received enough from the box-office to warrant a sequel.
Robert Rodriguez is an interesting actor to watch. He hasn’t exactly had his ‘Pulp Fiction’ to really cement his legacy in the same way as Quentin Tarantino, but his films are highly entertaining. The first two Spy Kids films more than surpassed what everyone’s expectations were for them, films like Desperado and From Dusk Til Dawn also definitely achieve high entertainment-value. While I haven’t seen Sin City, I do intend to watch it in the future. He has had one or two stinkers like the fourth Spy Kids and Sharkboy and Lavagirl, but other-wise, he’s a fun-director.
Tarantino and Rodriguez wanted to capture the spirit of Grindhouse films, and while I do believe their first attempt captured the spirit, I didn’t enjoy them very much. I found them lacking in entertainment-value, and so I was hoping that Machete would rectify that. It also helps that I like Danny Trejo. An example of something that feels like he’s in everything, I also wanted to see a film that would have him take the lead.
The story follows Machete Cortez, a former Mexican Federal. A grueling backstory shows Machete and his younger partner attempting a mission to rescue a woman who has been kidnapped. Machete’s partner is killed, and before you know it, his wife has been murdered by powerful drug lord, Rogelio Torrez. The film follows Machete’s attempts to extract revenge, while also feature various other themes such as aid for illegal immigrant.
Similar to the films that inspired it, Machete takes dark subject-matter and makes light of it. Or at the very least, it tackles it without making a clear message or a tasteful portrayal of the themes. From the very beginning, it should be known that this film is meant to carry entertainment-value. It is a film that is by-design meant to throw morals out the window, and come off as offensive, tasteless, and nonsensical as conceivably possible.
The film compiles one known actor after another, and a lot of the humor is the act of seeing such a talented and capable cast being seen in such a lowbrow film. Danny Trejo does well in his leading role. He is everything that he needs to be, and maybe a little more for good measure. Meanwhile the rest of the cast does well with their colorful and cartoony characters. Robert De Niro is especially entertaining with his outlandishness.
A lot has to do with the cinematography from this film as well. And with something like Machete, there is no denying that the editing is a massive aspect. After all, they have to register a feeling of being low-budget and crass. With his other films, Robert Rodriguez has developed a sense of style, and Machete seems well at absolutely perverting all of his talents, as well as cannibalizing them to a feeling of excess. Whether or not it holds as a strong-piece of filmmaking is irrelevant, the fact is that it works more often than not at being entertaining.
I will say that there are a couple of moments that lag a little more than others. A film like this makes me feel like it should be one explosive moment after the next, but I don’t really feel like that was always accomplish. Some moments actually seemed like they were trying to achieve something that was above their range, which would be ambitious for another film, but this one, with its themes, makes it seem like it’s unnecessary.
Machete doesn’t lose itself too often, but when it does, there’s no doubt that it has the tendency to lag behind. I also feel like they could have done more than what they did. Similar to Planet Terror, I feel like the film did well at capturing the elements of a grindhouse, but some of it didn’t always seemed as flushed out or as inspired as I would have liked, or if not that, I’d say they didn’t let enough time for each thing to sink in.
In conclusion, while Machete was never in the running for an Oscar, it does manage to successfully capture the Grindhouse style of filmmaking. All of the moments aren’t as entertaining as they could have been, and it stands for debate whether it could have been more fun with less time spent on certain elements and more time spent on the colorful characters. Other-wise, I would call Machete an entertaining film.