Saturday, September 4, 2010

Machete - Movie Review


Starring Danny Trejo, Robert DeNiro, Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Lindsay Lohan, Tom Savini, Daryl Sabara and Shea Whigham.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez.

I thought the two-minute fake trailer was great in Grindhouse (2007). For some weird reason I wasn't expecting this movie to still feel like a 90-minute trailer of itself, but it was.

The previews we had set the mood. The Town looks good, I'm hyped for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (kudos to the marketing guy who thought of using "Sympathy for the Devil"), and I'm tired of seeing the preview for Devil ("from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.") We also had Saw 3D and Resident Evil: Afterlife, this decade's version of grindhouse.

Then the movie.

Trejo's got a very interesting face. It looks like it's made from granite after centuries of ocean splashed against it. He doesn't need to say anything; his intense physical presense commands the screen. He's also got an impressive body for a 67-year-old man. Here he's a federale in Mexico whose wife and child get killed by the local kingpin Torrez (Steven Seagal). They think they've killed him too, but he re-emerges in Texas, doing odd jobs. There we find an eclectic cast of characters. There's Robert DeNiro as Sen. John McLaughlin, running a hate-filled anti-immigrant re-election campaign. There's SHE (Michelle Rodriguez) who runs a secret underground operation treated with the reverance of Harriet Tubman. There's Don Johnson, having the most fun as the evil border vigilante.

The political undertones of the movie were weird, off-putting. The argument seems to be that there should be an open border between the US and Mexico, and sending anyone back to Mexico is cruel, unusual and inhumane. And anyone who wants a secure border is a racist murderer. I guess.

Lindsay Lohan does show up and at one point finds herself in a nun's habit pointing a gun. She actually wasn't very good in this movie. I'm one who keeps hoping she'll get her life cleaned up. She CAN act. Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, A Prairie Home Companion. But her performance here was one where I felt like her off-screen life is catching up to her.

Then there's Steven Seagal. He's best when he's in the teleconferencing scenes, where we only see his head. The guy is really out of shape. I don't know he's been seriously injured recently or what, but he can't move. He cannot do a convincing fight scene. I think they would have needed less tricky camera work if Trejo had been fighting DeNiro. I wasn't convinced Seagal could hold a sword for ten seconds. I don't know what it was.

The movie's full of posing, of allegedly iconic moments. When I was younger, I dug this stuff. I remember thinking how cool it was in Desperado that a guy's guitar case was actually a machine gun. I liked the Mariachi trilogy more. I think I even liked Planet Terror more. Machete is fine while watching it, but I felt like I'd eaten too much junk food the morning after.

I'm ready for Robert Rodriguez to put out his own Inglourious Basterds, as I see RR as QT's perpetual little brother. It may be, though, that Rodriguez is never going to be able to top what he did in Sin City, and this level is his future.

P.S. Kudos for having three LOST alum in the cast.

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