After warming myself up by re-watching Planet Terror, I finally gave its cinematic offspring Machete (2010) a spin. For the record, I thought the original Grindhouse trailer was hilarious, and I got very excited when I heard that Michelle Rodriguez had been given a major role in the feature length version… but I guess I always had a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations, which is why I waited for the price to drop before I bought it.
For those who don’t know, this faux-retro action flick stars the one and only Danny Trejo as the eponymous knife-slinger… a former Mexican Federal agent, who flees across the border to escape the wrath of a slightly stilted and puffy-looking drug lord, who brutally murdered Machete’s wife (and possibly his daughter too, although that’s only implied). While trying to pass for a common-or-garden day labourer, he gets hired to assassinate a corrupt right-wing Senator, then all hell breaks loose when he realises he’s been double-crossed. Frankly, the whole thing becomes a bit of a mess after that, as more and more outlandish characters are introduced and then casually discarded. It’s a clear case of too many crooks spoiling the bloodbath, if you ask me! One of the frustrating things about Robert Rodriguez is that he has a lot of really cool ideas, but he just giddily tosses them all at the screen, like a child flicking paint at the page… so the sum effect is rarely as satisfying as a more focussed, streamlined and carefully crafted piece of work might be. I was really enjoying the ride to begin with, laughing at the absurd action sequences, and savouring the satirical elements… then as the momentum gathered, I really thought that they were heading for an insane, epic showdown between all the warring factions… but it all just spluttered out in a series of disjointed disappointments instead. The duel between Machete and his supposed archenemy was particularly pathetic… even more of an anticlimax than the “fight” between ‘The Bride’ and ‘Bill’ in Kill Bill. Feh.
I think this was probably M-Rod’s best role in years, although I don’t think it was necessarily her best performance. Maybe that’s a consequence of the way it was shot… I don’t know… there just didn’t seem to be much fire in her belly here. If there’s one thing she should be good at by now, it’s expressing anger… but I just didn’t feel it… even when her character was declaring war on a murderous “border vigilante”, who’d callously gunning down a pregnant woman in a previous scene. I think M-Rod looks fantastic in that outfit she’s sporting in the photo above, but after all the build-up to her character’s rebirth as a righteous revolutionary, it just turned out to be another damp squib. The only real consolation is that she lives to see the end credits this time, so there’s always the potential for a spin-off franchise of her own… yes? Lindsay Lohan was surprisingly game as a spoiled socialite who sets out to avenge her father’s death… but again her story wasn’t really fleshed out enough for it to have much impact. And speaking of “flesh”, I don’t understand why she was so willing to strip for a fairly random Marilyn Monroe “tribute” photoshoot a few years back, but is apparently too modest to show the same amount of boobage in her actual movies, even when the script clearly calls for it. I don’t want to sound like a prurient perv here, it just seems silly to cast so many prudish actresses in a pseudo-“exploitation” flick, and then have to go to the trouble of finding body-doubles, or digitally erasing underwear (as R-Rod did for Jessica Alba during her shower scene). There are plenty of talented, quality actresses out there who are happy to shed their clothes for the cameras, if the role requires it. Wasn’t Eva Green available…?
Meanwhile, Rose McGowan had some very funny scenes as a bizarre assassin named ‘Boots McCoy’, but sadly they were all deleted from the final cut… which just goes to show how overstuffed the cast was, if R-Rod had to excise one of his favourite actresses, just to keep things trucking along! Ara Celi appears throughout the movie as a TV reporter named ‘Esmeralda Sully’… mostly just to pass exposition along, but she does get a couple of scenes with Robert De Niro, which is a pretty impressive thing to have on your showreel, right?