Machete (2010) dir. Ethan Maniquis, Robert Rodriguez
Starring: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Cheech Marin, Steven Seagal
By Alan Bacchus
I was totally predisposed to enjoy this movie. I love the Grindhouse double-feature, specifically Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror, which I actually thought was one of the best films of the year, and even Scott Sanders’ Black Dynamite from last year. The film even has the most dynamite cast you could ask for: Robert De Niro using his Cape Fear accent as a corrupt right wing Senator, the monstrously ugly character actor whom Rodriguez personally created a career for, Danny Trejo, the comely Jessica Alba from Sin City fame, and Lindsay Lohan as a revenge-seeking nun.
And the plot, of course, expanded from the riotous fake trailer created specifically for the Grindhouse double-bill. And so what a disappointment when the ingredients don’t add up. There’s a helluva lot going in Machete, which unfortunately feels like a ill-matching patchwork quilt of contrasting plaids.
Danny Trejo plays a former federale Machete who in the past saw his family killed and himself left for dead at the hands of a maniacal Mexican drug dealer played by Steven Seagal. In the present, as a daylabourer he’s recruited by a nasty politician to assassinate a controversial Senator John McLaughlin who has a hardline stance against Mexican border crossers. The plot is a doublecross and Machete finds himself set up and framed for the murder. With the cops, politicians, the CIA and the drug dealers all after him Machete fights and fucks his way out of all kinds of danger, eventually going face to face with the man who killed his family.
Admirably Rodriguez and his filmmaking partners throw in as much ridiculous plotting and character to compliment to salacious b-movie plotting of grindhouse films of old. Side characters emerge all over the place for key cameo moments. Ie. Tom Savini, Don Johnson, even Rodriguez’ own nieces Electra and Elise Avellan who play the same deadly nurse duo Planet Terror. But it’s just too much going to on for anything to stick properly to the core narrative.
The action is also disappointing, though it has all the giddy carnage of Mariachi trilogy and Planet Terror, there’s no panache. Hell, where are the machine gun firing guitar cases?
We all know Danny Trejo can’t really carry a movie which is why the film is balanced with so many other better actors. But there’s just not enough done with say, Lindsay Lohan or Steven Seagal to capitalize on their talents and screen personas. Lohan only dons her nun’s outfit at the very end, and for the rest of film looks spaced out and vacant. And Steven Seagal barely gets to fight, instead looks like a bad Michael Madsen – which, come to think of it, would have been a better casting choice.
But kudos to Jessica Alba who was professional enough to be able to french kiss Danny Trejo while riding backwards on a motorcycle. I hope there was a bonus in Alba’s rider for that one.
Extra points for cinematic enthusiasm, but not enough for its execution.