08 September 2010

First Impressions: Machete

Machete don't text.

Thus spake Machete in one of the most interesting films this summer, the delightful number by Robert Rodriguez, Machete (2010).

This movie is crazy. I mean, this flick is really really fucking crazy. It's almost how I expected The Expendables (2010) to be, all-star Random Action Cast, ridiculous sex and violence on a constant display with a winking attitude with only the slightest political edge. Whereas it's more clear to me know that The Expendables strove for a more believable universe, Machete leaves everyone in the dust. It's right up there with The A-Team (2010) for a contender for funnest Action Film this summer, while the former is a bit muzzled, Machete flies its Mexican Freak Flag proudly. Let's start with the basic plot, which actually comes close to making sense. Haha, alright, you got me.

The Border Landed on Us:

This film has a staggering amount of villains coming at Machete from all directions. Not all of them particularly like each other nor are they all exactly working with each other. For Machete though, the complications of their conspiracies have an easy solution: Kill 'Em All. From Lapidus to Seagal, Don Johnson for some reason, Tom Savini for some other unknown reason and finally Bobbo himself, half of them kill each other, they all try to kill Machete but he's just unstoppable.

There's this heavy look at the racism and jingoism that fuels American Border concerns although there isn't really a strong argument from the positive side besides the vague notion that American life is intrinsically better than harsh times in Mexico and an idealistic notion that all downtrodden people deserve support ungranted from the politicians, drug lords and law enforcement. Machete works its story in black and white terms but that really just facilitates the story. This isn't supposed to be a deep movie and it wisely steers away from anything too mind-blowing.

There is a ridiculousness to the action and sex sequences unparalleled this summer. This flick delivers on its Grindhouse (2007) roots, not letting up for cell phone placement, grotto action, intestine swinging, as well as more ways to kill baddies with a machete than I previously thought was possible.

Speak Softly with a Big Knife:

I don't have a clue how Rodriguez assembled this dream cast. Along with the bad guys mentioned earlier those helping Machete along his way include Michelle Rodriguez, Jessica Alba and Lindsay Lohan (has there ever been a better trio of hotness on display?) as well as Daryl Sabara and Cheech Marin. Many of these cats have had some previous history working with R - Rod but they come together here to perfection. It's fun to see Sabara really get out of that Spy Kids mold with Hard R roles here and in World's Greatest Dad (2009). As for Lindsay, I still can't believe her babehood peaked with Mean Girls (2004) but she's clearly enjoying chewing this role for once.

Alba gives a classic painful pump-up speech the likes of which haven't been seen since At World's End(2007). M - Rod plays the character she always plays pretty well, this time oozing some bodacious eye-patch / huge mid-drift by films' end. They both try to get cuddly with Trejo, who in his first leading role, IS Machete.

Trejo is the only actor ever in the Universe who could have pulled this off. He plays mean and simple extraordinarily. He's a relic, he don't text, he don't love no more, he just kill. He's an anti-hero for sure but with a strong code of honour as well - refusing to bang the slizzard Jessica as well as distributing mercy to those who refuse to fight him. He's a stocky, muscular tatoo'd dude, one of the ugliest mugs to ever grace a Film Poster for sure (not like he doesn't have competition). Trejo is able to sell his character unlike almost any other lead this summer (except maybe Mike Ceratops as Scott Pilgrim), he wears the world on his face and is pure masculine domination for most of the flick.

DeNiro. I'm not sure how he works that accent, but it's pretty tough for him not to be watchable in a film (again -- it's not like he's never tried). He's a sleaze but just his presence in this film gives it some kind of unforeseen credentials. I mean, otherwise you really do have a film starring Danny Trejo gutting Texans for 105 minutes. It's actually interesting from a marketing standpoint that almost every other actor in this flick is much more famous than the lead.

We could get into a lot more characters here, Cheech shines in the moments he's allowed to, but Seagal showing up is super-ridiculous. His accent is absolutely horrendous, as expected, but he's one of the crazier actors working today. I mean, have you seen Lawman? Every time he activates Seagal-Vision to fight real-world crime...wow. I'm just glad someone already realised how insane Seagal's life is years ago. Spectacular effort, friends.

Grindy Origins:

I suppose I'll chat a bit about where this flick came from for a second here. Machete was this brainchild of R - Rod from the early 90s, right after he filmed Desperado (1995). It's the kind of insane idea that required a much more Post-Modern world to actually create into a film. The 90s weren't a time for this, the action films of yesteryear tended to take themselves more seriously than some of the purposeful schlock delivered today. So Machete was the perfect companion among Thanksgiving and Werewolf Women of the SS to feature as a Fake Trailer for Tarantino and Rodriguez's double feature, Grindhouse.

These trailers are really interesting to me. They exhibit a certain fascination for the bad. They are purposely campy, ridiculous and poorly constructed. It's a carefully detailed way to export an inferior product (ie purposely damaging film stock, bad make-up and gore effects, restricted CGI use). Moreover it's interesting that there exists not only an auteur group who is interested in producing these essentially major studio joke films, but that there is an audience that enjoys watching reproductions of an earlier, shittier, obscure period of film-making.

Of course based on the Box Office Receipts of Grindhouse as well as Machete, that group isn't really that big. Actually that Machete did slightly better than Grindhouse did back in 2007 is telling towards the kind of change the public's attitude has had towards these kinds of nutty films. Without the Tarantino, Russell, or Willis name Machete sliced it up. Not too any super-success by any thought, but when your film is out-performed by the Fake Trailer accompanying it...shit, son.

So Machete is ultra-violent, ultra-sexy, ultra-fun and Trejo is the ultimate fucking badass we've needed for a generation. I mean, even Arnie had a smoothed out face that could get the bitches on his shit you know? Trejo is just a mangled mass of Mexican Insanity.

Rodriguez throughout his career has highlighted the best and worst parts of Mexican culture. From El Mariachi (1992) to Spy Kids (2001) he's actually done a good job casting Hispanics in both action films as heroes as well as in kid's films as normal people. In fact, he's really pioneered the Mexsploitation Genre to its fullest. Whether or not this is actually progressive is debatable, at the end of Machete there's not a whole lot resolved, and treating a serious problem like Border Issues in such a hokey film could be considered offensive in its own right.

Or maybe it's just perfect. Oh well.

Machete don't text.

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