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Blu-Ray Review: MACHETE- A Rip-Roaring Mexploitation Romp Let Down By A Lack of Special Features

As if we didn't know it already, Machete is the film that finally and definitively confirms that Robert Rodriguez is insane. I fully believe that the man is a creative schizophrenic, able to make family friendly fare like the Spy Kids quadrilogy and Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D at the same time as unleashing high-octane, heavy hitting and stylish blood baths like Machete that laugh menacingly in the face of his acceptable PG13 side. With Machete, Rodriguez is living the dream, furthering his agenda to bring films to the screen that are little more than a vehicle to sate his lust for muscle cars, sexy girls with big shiny guns and generally menacing ultra-violent and macho, rugged men. There are two images that define Machete more than any other: the first is the sight of Michelle Rodriguez in a bikini top wielding some hand-held heavy artillery, flanked by two Uzi-holding sexy nurses, and the other is that of Danny Trejo flying through the air on a suped-up hog with a mounted chain gun with an explosion behind him. Fucking A. Machete fits in well with Rodriguez's Mexican flavoured dusty sleaze-fest works like the El Mariachi trilogy and From Dusk Til Dawn, melding them with the bat-shit lunacy of his comic-infused films like Sin City and Planet Terror to make an exploitation action movie like nothing else you're likely to see this year. Some of the scenes, including that which features an inventive Intestine Bungee Jump, leave you open-mouthed but grinning, and that is sort of the point of this whole bravado-laced exercise. It's all over the top, and it looks great. I particularly like Rodriguez's repeated message that villains can be heroes when their enemies are more evil than they are: it allows us the freedom to love these anti-heroes, like Marv in Sin City, El Mariachi and now Machete while they punch, kick, shoot and stab their way through hordes of enemies. They are anti-heroes in the best sense, unbound by the concerns of lawfulness, and equipped with the kind of evil innovation that is usually restricted to the supervillains of the world of film. Danny Trejo does his job perfectly, and Rodriguez clearly recognises that his performance relies on upholding the special mystique that the actor already carries. He is a physical marvel, with the kind of poise that has made him a legend in action movie circles, but that image relies on him being given fewer responsibilities when it comes to delivering lines. Which would be why he speaks about ten full lines of dialogue throughout the whole of Machete- he is a physical creation, and the success of his chemistry with other characters relied on them being given the responsibility to talk. As he says himself- "Why would I want to be a real person, when I'm already a myth?" As with every Rodriguez project there is a lot of enjoyment in seeing the same recognisable faces, who are now almost synonymous with the feel of his films. So having Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin, and Tom Savini is very comforting and enormously entertaining, since it is usually only in Rodriguez's films that any of them appear in memorable roles. Alongside these semi-iconic mainstays comes an influx of headier "talent" including Jessica Alba, Robert De Niro and Michelle Rodriguez, although in each case the actors seem too concerned with trying to create a faux-B-movie tone to their performances. While Fahey, Marin, Savini and even Lindsay Lohan accomplish it authentically, the A-listers are more laboured and stick out quite plainly- which is a shame as they are given the weight of the dialogue (especially Alba). The stars of the show, other than Trejo- who is mesmorising- undoubtedly have to be Don Johnson, in hillbilly Vigilante full-flow and Steven Seagal, mercilessly aping his own film career to bring one of the coolest and untouchable drug lords cinema has ever seen. Both great knowing cameos, but both crucially done with precision and flair. The film isn't to be taken seriously at all, and there are some funny sequences thrown in to indicate as much, from the small touches like the fried egg under Machete's bed to indicate the heat to Lindsay Lohan's entire character. It is over-the-top in the grandest sense, melding Rodriguez's unrelentingly fun agenda with a glorious abandon that made it the best OTT actioner of 2010, even despite the presence of The Expendables and The A-Team. In that particular three-way tussle, Machete walked out tall and proud and probably covered in the blood of the competition, and on merit, there is no way it could have even been called a fair fight.

Quality

It looks like 20th Century Fox are still the leaders when it comes to releasing brand-new blu-ray films, as they continue their recent barely blemished work with Machete. But that much is not so clear when the film begins, as the first five or ten minutes are presented in the Grindhouse artificially distressed manner that is at odds with the high-definition format. But then, thankfully for high-def fans, Rodriguez dispenses with this tone-setting aesthetic and brings in a good-looking high contrast, high definition friendly look. The transfer is largely beautifully clear- both the levels of detail and texture are excellent: just look at Danny Trejo's face: everyinfamous imperfection is perfectly visible, retaining the natural charisma therein. The colour palette is equally excellent, primary colours pop impressively, skin tones are perfect, and black levels are mostly very solid. Very, very good overall. Machete's sound-track is equally as impressive, showing off the heavy-hitting action sequences with heavyweight and loud sound effects. Gunshots sound great, as do the roar of engines, and it is some measure of the transfers success that those particularly bombastic sequences are not let down by inferior work during the simple stages. Thankfully the film's dialogue is uniformally clean, and crisp, which is astonishing considering some of the vocal idiosyncracies present within Rodriguez's collected cast, and the musical accompaniment- provided by the Rodriguez formed band Chingon- is perfectly clear and stable without the bass ever interfering with atmospheric or general background noise levels.

Extras

Nothing much, which is pretty surprising for a Rodriguez flick: double dip anyone? We are given a few Deleted Scenes, two trailers and three redundant sneak peeks, and that's about it. No Grindhouse Machete trailer either- so it looks more and more like there will be a special edition, or even a box-set of all of the Grindhouse films in one go. The disc also includes an "Audience Reaction Track," which mimics the experience of being in the middle of a virtual cinema with the audience vocally reacting to the film- for that authentic Grindhouse feel. It's a gimmick, and something I would usually avoid like the plague, but with Machete it works better than it has in other Rodriguez's releases- and if pressed I would say it's a little too invasive and annoying to really consider an additional feature in any real sense. Deleted Scenes (11 mins) Theatrical Trailer (2 mins) Red Band Theatrical Trailer (2 mins) Sneak Peeks: Trailers for The A-Team, Twelve, and Street Kings 2. BD-Live Exclusive Deleted Scene (1min) Machete is released on Blu-ray from tomorrow, March 29th.
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