Only a few reviews ago I was raving about The Social Network being the best movie of the year. In retrospect, that was a ridiculous thing to say when there was a new Robert Rodriguez movie released within weeks. The Social Network is great, sure, but Machete takes that movie, shoots it in the face, straps a bomb to it, and then sets it on fire.
You know how in relationships, you always end up having the discussion about who the one famous person is you are allowed to have an affair with if the possibility ever arises? Chris usually picks Sarah Chalke, who plays Elliott in Scrubs, and while I’ve discussed my secret boyfriends in the past on this blog, I’m pretty confident that my number one affair-inducer is Robert Rodriguez. I am a fan of him in every shape and form. He is cute, wears a bandanna, directs, writes, edits, composes, and gets his family and friends involved in pretty much every movie that he makes. And they are some of the best movies I’ve seen. I don’t know what it is about his films that I love so much, but he absolutely hits every button with me. Embarrassing as it is, there got to a certain point during Machete where I was enjoying it so much—not laughing, just smiling—that I actually shed a tear. I did. I cried with excitement over a schlock action film. AND I WILL DO IT AGAIN.
Machete began as just a glimmer in Rodriguez’s eye years ago, then properly as a fake preview in Rodriguez’s ill-fated (but brilliant) Grindhouse collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. With Danny Trejo decked out in an array of machetes and knives, he shoots, stabs, gets shot, bonks pretty ladies and comes flying through the air out of an explosion on his motorbike. It received such love from the crowds that Rodriguez turned it into a feature length movie, and we are all the better as a world because of it.
Machete (Trejo) is an ex-Federale, working illegally as a day labourer in the Texas after a series of unpleasant events involving crossing drug lord Torrez (Steven Seagal), watching his wife be killed, and being stabbed and left for dead in a fire. A lot is going on in Texas: Senator John McLaughlin (Robert DeNiro) is launching a campaign targeted at getting rid of immigrants—he calls them “parasites”—while The Network, run by the elusive Shé, is doing what they can to help those crossing the border. When Machete is hired to assassinate McLaughlin, ostensibly to stop him from taking away the cheap labour Texas needs to survive, he finds himself part of an even bigger plot that goes all the way back to Mexico and to the man he hates the most.
From the opening scene with Machete crushing a police two-way radio in his bare hand, what follows is excessive amounts of gore, blood, and nudity—if you wanted to see Jessica Alba (as immigration official Sartana Rivera) in the shower, or Lindsay Lohan (as wayward daughter April) naked in a pool but for a huge blonde wig, this is the film for you. Michelle Rodriguez keeps her kit on but is amazing as Network leader Luz, saving the world from her taco van. The casting is always incredible in these films, and also usually share a few of the same actors: Cheech Marin returns as Machete’s padre brother, meaning Rodriguez can have his usual church shoot-em-up (“I absolve you of all your sins, now get the fuck out”); blue-eyed Jeff Fahey is Michael Booth, political aide and the conniving schemer behind the hit; Tom Savini—he of the glorious groin-gun in From Dusk Til Dawn—plays Osiris, hired by Booth to kill Machete. This movie also “introduces” Don Johnson as border vigilante Von Jackson. Seagal is utterly excellent and looks about eleven feet tall next to Trejo (who isn’t a tiny man), and as ominous, unmoving and square as a detention centre in his Kim Jong-Il outfit.
Things get blown up. Limbs and heads go flying. Everything is ridiculous and overdone. Sartana kills someone armed only with her red stiletto shoes. A particular self-induced death scene is the most calm and memorable you’ll ever see. Booth walks through a house shooting everyone there is without breaking a sweat. In my favourite scene by far, Machete jumps out of a hospital window using still-attached intestines as a rope. It’s absolutely silly, fun and cartoonish. While this blog is okay with differences of opinion, and if you hate schlock movies then that’s fine, but the reviews I’ve read that dislike this seem to be taking it far too seriously. I mean, honestly. At one point Sartana yells at Machete for not contacting or texting her and Machete says, monotone, “Machete don’t text.” It’s brilliant. Even despite its silliness, Sartana’s speech at the end as she rallies the immigrant workers of Texas, saying: “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us!” made chills run up my spine. I think I am the Target Market here.
Rodriguez makes the most out of close-ups, not holding back from the actors’ flaws. His cinematography has always been wonderful, at the right place at the right time, and totally immersive. The sound is predictably wonderful, loud and chaotic and full of zest.
In summary: Exceeds Expectations, and is the greatest movie ever. Apparently, an even more violent director’s cut will be on the DVD release, leaving me searching wildly for a time machine that can shoot me into next January to buy it.
ETA: After extensive fawning over Wikipedia, I have discovered that Robert Rodriguez has broken up with Rose McGowan. Bye all, I’m off to Texas.