As far as I am concerned, the whole problem with this film was that from the moment I saw the 3 minute fake 'Machete' trailer at the front of Planet Terror, which was the better of the two Grindhouse films by a long long way, I had started to construct, in my head, an awesome version of the full length, finished film. When I then found out that a full feature was being made, I was very excited and again began to assemble a wish list of dream scenes that could go into such a revenge epic. Finally, when I saw who was going to be in the finished film - Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, De Niro, Cheech Marin and Tom Savini - my anticipation peaked and I couldn't have been looking forward more to this (hopefully) ridiculous movie.
Well, nothing was going to live up to that was it?
So, I recognise, I came to it as a man who, if he was making Machete, would've done things differently.
To go into the plot here would be irrelevant because that's pretty much how it is treated in the film, which ends up being little more than vague extended action scenes to bridge the gaps between the cool bits you remember from the original trailer.
Basically it attempts to set up Trejo as a Mexican Charles Bronson crossed with a Van Damme or Steven Seagal and in that regard it almost succeeds, as he has just about as much acting talent as any of them, maybe even less. Not that you need to act when the lines and pock marks on your face and the tattoos on your body do it all for you. His skin is so bizarre, he looks like he's made of felt and his hair and moustache are stuck on like a muppet. The trouble is, if all you are going to have your star do is stare blankly and occasionally grumble a one liner, write them some decent one liners! All we get here is 'Machete don't text' which is mildly amusing and would remain cool if he didn't break that rule 3 scenes down the line.
Every other member of the cast, except maybe Cheech Marin, is wasted.
De Niro never quite gets the chance to perfect his Bush impression, Fahey flails around sounding like Bale when he does that annoying gravelly Batman voice and pursing his lips way too much, Alba is unforgivably weak, Savini barely shows up and has too few moments of cool, Lindsey Lohan, although obviously parodying herself, looks genuinely like she needs a good meal, a week in bed asleep and to quit every negative vice in her life now before she slips into a coma and finally, Steven Seagal, who acts exceptionally cool here, looks suitably hulking and ridiculous, who is set up to be the big end villain to end all big end villains and who I was genuinely thrilled to see in the film gets a couple of minutes of possibly entertaining sword play and some risible posturing but is despatched all too easily and with no sense of titanic grandeur that he deserves. He gave up a part in the Expendables for this?! silly, silly man.
I am sat here now staring at the poster in the top left hand corner and thinking, ever wish these films would live up to the poster? I remember an experience, while in university, when I was expanding my B-Movie collection, in the video shop a friend and I came across a film called 'A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell' and how desperately disappointed and swindled we felt when there was no hell and the barbarian in question was neither promiscuous nor particularly barbaric. Instead it looked like some homeless people wandered about in a park while being occasionally assaulted by some laughable use of play dough animated dinosaurs. The same goes for when you see those box sets of old grindhouse or b movies that all have write-ups on the DVD that make them sound like the best damn thing you could ever see, with names that titillate and excite but just like the toy commercial at Christmas with the flashing light show and startling sounds, when you get these films back to your living room they are lifeless, cheap bits of plastic.
While Machete is never that bad and indeed I feel like this whole review is being overly negative, there was a sense, while watching it, of just how home-made it all was and how no amount of 'no it's meant to look like that, it's grindhouse' arguing would ever convince me that this is as good as Rodriguez and his pals clearly think it is.
He does, however, have a set up most people would die for. A huge sand box in a playground of his own building, with a back lot, edit suites, sound recording rooms, green screens and assorted awesome equipment. I am not someone who wants to come in and start knocking people for being self sufficient and making whatever they want but, for whatever reason, there was a lot about Machete that felt lazy and sloppy and not in a 'oh cool how grungy' type of a way but more in a 'come on, sort it out man, you're almost there...' way.
It felt like a missed opportunity.
It only felt like that because there were several good little action sequences which made you wish they had pushed it a bit further. If it had just been flat-out crap then I wouldn't have to work so hard to explain what's wrong with the film but because it showed promise, the music, as always, was good, the blade work choreographed well and the effects suitably fun and gory, it's just a shame the plot was so confused and the last act seemed so rushed and weak.
You can blame government.
While re-writing and prepping this film, Arizona passed a bill that was seen as very negative towards Mexicans specifically and I think it was this that was suddenly incorporated into and threatened to drown out the rest of the film. Not that it wasn't fine to have a point but to have a point well, you have to choose material that best reflects that and I am not sure a discussion about borders and illegal immigration is going to spring from a knife wielding Mexican revenge film as immaturely put together as this one.
I need to go to bed now, these are my thoughts for now. I may edit and add more later.
4 out of 10 dry tacos
Points from The Misses 2 out of 10 dry tacos