Shaun says only f*ck with MACHETE when fully intoxicated!

rating: 3

Despite how loved the original trailer for Machete €“ initially attached to the Tarantino-Rodriguez double feature Grindhouse €“ was, few of us probably ever expected it to amount to more than those hilariously gratuitous three minutes. It says a lot not only about the postmodern Grindhouse revival that has been occurring in recent years €“ allowing the likes of not one but two Crank films to get made €“ but also Rodriguez€™s clout as a director that he managed to make the film at all (reportedly assembling a lot of footage from his original trailer shoot), let alone that he has packed it to the rafters with a gang of veritable A-listers (and quite a few B and C-listers, too). Danny Trejo plays the titular Machete; a Mexican illegal immigrant living in America who, after his wife and daughter are viciously murdered by drug kingpin Rogelio Torrez (Steven Seagal, in his first appearance on a cinema screen in close to a decade), decides to live a clean and honest life. Tempted back into the fold by businessman Michael Booth (Jeff Fahey), who offers him cash to murder hyper-Conservative, immigration-hating Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), he is nevertheless double-crossed, and with the help of skeptical, by-the-book immigration cop Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba), must try to clear not only his own name, but the reputation of Mexicans living in the U.S. The fact that there are five decapitations in the first five minutes of Machete sets a promising tone from the outset, and yes, it is absolutely as hare-brained, poorly made (complete with CGI cigarette burns and marks on the €œreel€) and ridiculous as that trailer implied. Rodriguez makes a surprising reach, however, for something actually resembling a storyline, and this is where he encounters trouble; the plot, which astoundingly makes sense for the most part, is too serious-minded and interested in social commentary, when it should be focusing on boobs, blades and blood. Social commentary, you ask? Quite how can a film centrally preoccupied with Danny Trejo stabbing and shooting people and having sex with lots of women have any sort of pretension to political currency? Rather than focusing on a simple, blood-soaked revenge plot, Rodriguez has peppered his film with a bloated, overzealous attack on the anti-immigration brigade which, in slowing the murder and mayhem down, stilts the fun and causes the film to run in at a strangely long 105 minutes (not a minute over 80 would have suited better). The embittered conviction of the attack implies that Rodriguez has a chip on his shoulder, and in upping the tone somewhat, the expected low-rent hilarity is, in fact, not all that hilarious. That said, there are plenty of gems throughout; Lindsay Lohan, as Booth€™s coked-out daughter, pretty much plays herself to amusing effect, while Steven Seagal €“ who appears more rotund and out of breath with each new straight-to-video release €“ is clearly having fun in his undemanding bout of villainy. The best supporting appearance ultimately comes from Cheech Marin, whose shotgun-totting priest is so delightful that it€™s easy to lament him not appearing for longer. De Niro€™s role, while less pitched for comedy, is a left-turn for the actor, and though hardly a memorable entry into his pantheon of work, it at least sees him continuing his recent run of complete trash with something that intends to be trash. The action, though sparsely placed, similarly does not disappoint; Machete€™s favoured weapon, which is probably best described as Freddy Krueger€™s signature glove on a leash, is undeniably awesome, and the gore is certainly played for laughs (especially when Machete swings into a room using an assailant€™s intestines). The problem, however, is that there just is not enough of it; the initial sizzle reel suggested Machete would be a no-nonsense (or in fact, all-nonsense) gore-fest with plenty of nudity and silliness to boot. These elements are instead toned down in favour of the actual semblance of a plot, which is overly articulate and detracts from the exploitative tone, thus denying star Trejo the truly awesome starring role that he absolutely deserves. Fun to a point and certainly a good one to catch after a trip to the pub, Machete is nevertheless luke-warm when it should be white-hot. Making what fans wanted should not have been difficult (especially with this cast), but Rodriguez€™s own peculiar motivations very nearly make this film at times, dare I say, boring. Machete is released in U.K. cinema's now.
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Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at]