by NIR SHALEV
In 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino wrote and directed a couple of schlocky, fake exploitation films in the vein of 1970s low budget, ultra-violent, and sex filled romps. They’re Planet Terror, a gory, inventive, and hilarious zombie film and Death Proof, a film in which a homicidal maniac/Hollywood stunt man likes to murder women with his car. Before and in between the two films played a few fake trailers: Edgar Wright’s Don’t, Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, and Rodriguez’s own Machete. Now Rodriguez brings us a full length film version of the fake trailer and it’s as schlocky, as gory, and as over the top and heavily stylized as we’d expected. At least it was for me.
Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Federale whose wife is murdered before his eyes by Torrez (Steven Seagal), the drug dealer that he’d been hunting. A few years later Machete is seen on the streets of Austin, Texas as he joins the many Mexican immigrants who look for work on the streets; possibly gardening or landscaping. One day, a man named Booth (Jeff Fahey) hires Machete to assassinate Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro), who’s running for reelection. Machete is backstabbed and is blamed for the attempted assassination but manages to escape and is unaware that the assassination is only a ruse to boost support for McLaughlin, who is only shot in the leg; McLaughlin is also unaware of the plan.
Joining the cast is Special Agent Sartana (Jessica Alba), who’s in charge of border side immigration control; Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), who runs a taco/burrito stand and may or may not be a revolutionary named She (an obvious wink to Che Guevara); Lt. Stillman (Don Johnson), who operates a vigilante group of border patrolmen; Padre (Cheech Marin), Machete’s brother and a priest who owns a large arsenal of weapons; and April (Lindsay Lohan), Booth’s slutty daughter.
Sartana eventually joins forces with Machete and helps him to uncover an interesting conspiracy and Padre eventually joins forces, too. Booth works in cahoots with Senator McLaughlin and with Lt. Stillman and are scheming to make sure that Torrez does not build an electric fence separating the U.S. and Mexico for a reason that relatively makes sense and would be considered a spoiler. Most of Mexico’s citizens and the illegal Mexicans found within the U.S., in this film are hoping for an open border and are hoping for the coming of She to lead them to and through the expected revolution.
For a 1970s exploitation film, be it a fake one at that, one filled to the brim with over the top gruesome yet inventive kills, and a lot of sex, the story became better than the movie itself. But in the violence department, this film overthrows The Expendables and Piranha 3D.
The film looks terribly scratchy but my only complaint on that aspect is that the film was shot with a digital camera and it’s very noticeable. The film looks sharp, pores and makeup are extremely visible, but the film was treated with a “film look” in the post production phase and so periodically, the actors’ complexions are either inexplicably smooth or out of focus. But it’s also due to the fact that in Toronto the major Cineplex theaters only have digital projectors and therefore, complaining has become pointless.
I really enjoyed this film. It’s very gory but inventive, the dialogue is hilarious, and despite what some are saying, this movie was not boring. It’s not “worse than the trailer because it shouldn’t be more than five minutes long” and it’s definitely made up for Stallone’s Expendables. Rodriguez knows this material well because he’s familiar with the exploitation cinema first hand so Machete works as a terrific satire of bad exploitation flicks. Stallone failed because the bad 1980s action movies cannot be repeated at face value nowadays and it was also terrible schlock.
I recommend that one waits for the DVD release of the original theatrical version of Grindhouse because it’ll contain the fake trailers. On a side note, Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving trailer is being made into a full length film, a mock 1980s horror film belonging to the “dead teenage genre,” and only in Canada had a fake trailer called Hobo with a Shotgun been shown in the theaters. During Machete I saw a film trailer to a full length film version of Hobo with a Shotgun and it’ll star Rutger Hauer. It looks like the exploitation, blacksploitation, and Ausploitation (Australian Exploitation) movies are making a comeback and lucky they’re all being shown as satires of their previous selves. 2010 is a year so devoid of good comedic films that I’m glad that fake horror films are coming out wholesale.
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