Director: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal, Cheech Martin, Lindsey Lohan with Don Johnson and Robert De Niro
Plot: Disgraced copper, Machete (Trejo) is hired to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (De Niro), who is sending hundreds of immigrants out of the country. However, it soon becomes clear he is being set up.
Machete is my kind of movie. Robert Rodriguez at the helm, a B-Movie vibe with tongue in cheek humour and outrageous action: it seemed like everything I wanted in my dream film. Sadly, Machete, while momentarily satisfying, could have been so much better, even if you came into the film not expecting anything more than a few chuckles.
The main problem here is that Rodriguez gives us a plot far too serious and intricate for this material. We are trying to relax into a stupid action movie, but we are constantly been dragged down by a clunky script intent on bringing the whole political issue of Mexican immigrants coming into Texas. There is a sense that Rodriguez is trying to bring more class and depth to this breed of film, when truthfully, the only people coming to see this kind of flick want an escape from the heavier political debates sprinkled into their action, like we would get from a Bourne film. As a result, this film juggles nonsensical violence, larger-than-life characters, yet heavy exposition.
It is a shame, because story aside, we have a good set-up here. Machete is actually the same character Danny Trejo portrays in Spy Kids, making this technically a disturbing spin-off of a children’s movie. Trejo is great as his first, and let’s be honest only, lead role. It is nothing we haven’t seen before. He is tough, silent and brutal: yet when you hire Trejo as your lead, this is the only kind of character you had in mind. Rodriguez gives this character the perfect script, allowing us to see Trejo at his very best. For all of this film’s faults, you are cold-hearted if you don’t find the immortal line ‘Machete don’t text’ one of the funniest quotes in Rodriguez’s work.
There is also a fantastic array of characters here, which is a shame, as the story often wastes them. Jessica Alba plays the determined Customs agents, Michelle Rodriguez plays the ferocious immigrant resistance leader She (obviously a female version of Che), and Jeff Fahey’s villain is one of the more chilling villains in recent memory. The story, while confusing, does allow for all of these characters to do their thing, before getting thrown into a messy finale (you could argue messy is a good thing here). You do get the dud role here and there. Lindsey Lohan’s character isn’t worth much, no one being quite able to trust the volatile actress with a massive role just yet. Steven Seagel is actually quite impressive as the villain here, but his showdown with Machete is one of the more disappointing features of the movie. The biggest let-down from an actor is ironically the biggest star here. Robert De Niro knocks together one of his Texan stereotypes, goes for corny and come across as pathetic. It is a shame, as De Niro should have been able to really milk the role of corrupt senator, but Rodriguez never allows the actor to escape the farcical nature of the script.
At least there are moments that gave me what I wanted. Rodriguez handles the B-Movie side of things very well. Machete cuts open a thug and uses his intestines to swing to the floor below. Characters suffer fatal wounds, only to reappear for the big finale, fully capable of fighting. These are the elements we came to see and when you can get over the clumsy political plot, you will get what you want. I would have liked a little more action – some of the villains are killed off quickly, rather than getting the end fight they truly deserved, yet at least Rodriguez has us caring enough to hold onto until the finish line. I have big hopes for Machete Kills, but I do hope Rodriguez has highlighted the flaws of the original and corrected them, accordingly.
Final verdict: Truthfully, we all expected better. There’s enough here to satisfy the Rodriguez fans though and keep them wanting more from the sequel.