For those who’ve seen the Grindhouse films from 2007 (a Tarantino and Rodriguez collaboration), there was a trailer included of a fake film called Machete. It was a well-done, B movie-inspired trailer depicting a man who specialized in chopping bad guys into pieces with his … you guessed it — machete.
The Grindhouse films, as well as the included trailers, were designed to replicate the B movie — a genre of substandard films originating in the 1950s, known for being low budget and largely unrefined. This genre was notorious for its “cheesiness” — awkward and uncoordinated action, limp puppets posing as monsters, creepy, over-exaggerated facial expressions and terrible dialogue.
Although these films were never taken seriously, people appreciated them for their originality and unintentional style of humor.
Machete follows right in line with the Grindhouse films, building on the B movie-geared theme by using computer-generated effects and precisely injected B movie “cheese” to create a nostalgic and humorous film that walks the line between action-thriller and subtle comedy. Machete is co-directed by Robert Rodriguez, a man who is no stranger to humor-infused action-horror, and Ethan Maniquis.
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The film begins with Machete (Danny Trejo), a Mexican federale, speeding through a desert town in his jalopy, eventually crashing into the front of a crime house.
Immediately after Machete exits the car, his skill with his preferred weapon is seen as he makes his way through the bad guy-packed abode. Heads fly, blood literally explodes all over everything and just when you think Machete is the baddest man in Mexico, the tables turn and he is humbled — by none other than the great Steven Seagal, who plays the part of crime lord Torrez.
Machete survives the encounter with Torrez and years later, ends up near the border of Texas and Mexico. He’s an illegal immigrant in the U.S. who, by chance, is hired by sleazy businessman Booth (Jeff Fahey) to assassinate the crooked Senator McLaughlin (Robert De Niro). After Machete is betrayed, he gets caught up in a spider web of conflict. He befriends a local woman, Luz (Michelle Rodriguez), who is involved in aiding illegal immigrants. He also encounters an immigration law enforcement agent named Sartana (Jessica Alba), who is after Luz for her illegal activity and eventually after Machete when she learns he is wanted.
Other noteworthy players in the film are Lindsay Lohan as Booth’s promiscuous daughter, April, and Cheech Marin as Machete’s brother, Padre. Lohan’s role in the film is over the top and parallels her real life in many ways — the scene where Lohan’s character is introduced depicts her in an overdosed condition being carried out of an illegal drug lab house. The role of Marin in the film is humorous with some good one-liners originating from his character.
The primary theme of the film is an amalgam of immigration, corruption, revenge and complete absurdity. The pacing of the film is quick and there are very few, if any, scenes in the film that drag on. Instead of overly relying of computer-generated effects, Rodriguez relies on quick cuts to show arms and heads being severed. He also relies heavily on the use of quick zoom ins and outs during dramatic scenes, trademark of his style that only serve to reinforce the B movie quality of the film.
Acting, as to be expected in a B movie, is overdone and bewildering. There are scenes where dialogue goes a completely unexpected direction and many of those scenes end without making any sense. This film fits perfectly with the Grindhouse films of 2007 and is a legitimate homage to films from the past that tried hard, but failed comically.