Friday Fisticuffs: Machete (2010)

In 2007 I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Trejo for one of the many attempts at a Wizard website. It was for the Halloween remake which I hated, but turned out being one of my all time favorite interviews because he was such a down to earth and enthusiastic dude. By then Grindhouse had come out with its fake trailers and one of the many projects on Robert Rodriguez’s very full plate was a film version of his “fake trailer” for a movie starring Trejo as a blade-wielding fighter called Machete. I even asked him about it when I talked to him. The actual time table might haven’t been what he thought it was back then, but eventually the movie came out last year. I was jazzed, but I didn’t get a chance to see the movie at the theater. I’ve had the movie from Netflix ready to be watched, but Digging Double Oh Seven posts have taken up most of my movie watching time lately. Thankfully, today, I had some extra time and sat down to watch a truly enjoyable action flick that is the first one in a while to earn the “…Is Awesome” tag.

The action in this movie is top notch and looks fantastic. The choreography in the opening scene of Machete tearing through a house of bad guys. At one point he spins around with blade drawn and decapitates several adversaries. As Machete, Trejo doesn’t just slice and dice with his weapons, but cuts through his scenes as well with a determined purpose reminiscent of the good old days of action revenge movies. He’s not necessarily graceful like a Jason Statham or other martial artists, which makes sense because he shouldn’t be. He should a street fighter type guy, a well trained and exceedingly dangerous one, but still. My only complaint on that end is that some of the blood splatter looked badly CGed, but I only noticed it when the wounds were from guns instead of blades.

The film also has a very interesting visual appeal to it outside of seeing beautiful women like Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay “I Used To Be Way Hotter Before All The Coke” Lohan. The flick starts off looking like an old grindhouse movie with lots of scratches and dirt on the film, which didn’t last too long. Using that effect throughout the flick would have been fine by me, but the real visual interest is in the colors on screen. I don’t know what the technical term for it is, but the movie seems like it’s dripping with color. It’s so bold and fun to look at that I actually wound up watching the movie more than my computer. Of course, the aforementioned blood and pretty ladies helped as well.

There’s also a ridiculous number of favorite actors on screen that kept my attention like Don Johnson, Cheech Marin, Robert De Niro (his best role in years?), Steven Seagal, Jeff Fahey, Tom Savini and the ladies I mentioned above. Each seemed to fit their purpose very well and, with the exception of Lohan, didn’t really feel like stunt casting too much. I actually didn’t expect De Niro to be in the film as much as he was because he’s such a big name, but he wound up being a pretty important part of the flick.

Five paragraphs in and I haven’t explained the plot yet, I must be slipping. See, Machete was a Federale who ran up against Seagal’s Mexican drug lord. Their encounter left Machete wife and childless so he bummed around California as a migrant worker for a while until Fahey hired him to kill De Niro–an anti-immigration politician running for re-election. Of course, it’s all a set up and Fahey was really trying to turn De Niro into a hero and make Machete a villain. So, with the help of Jessica Alba and a bunch of others, he sets out to bring Fahey, De Niro and all the other baddies down. I’m sure the movie’s over the top representation of anti-immigration ruffled some feathers in various places, but much like targeting Nazis or whover Rambo went after in Rambo, going after racist assholes is always a fun ride. I don’t pretend to know anything about border issues and don’t really have a full formed opinion on any of it, but people are people and shouldn’t be treated like shit just because of where they were born.

Okay, enough philosophizing. I have a question for you good folks: Does anyone like Michelle Rodriguez as an actress? I didn’t like her on Lost, but that’s more because of her character I think. But, I found that, while watching Machete, that I found her very distracting in a bad way. She has this tendency to slip into a voice that sounds like someone acting, not like a real person which pulled me right out of the story a few times. It wasn’t all the time–I didn’t even recognize her at first–but once her and Machete team up there’s head-slapping bad moments that were no fun. Luckily, she’s not on the screen all the time, so I was able to jump right back into the flick. Anyone else have this problem with her?

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